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Linear motors replace ropes in future elevator system

01 December, 2014

The German elevator manufacturer ThyssenKrupp has announced a technology that will use linear motors instead of traditional ropes to move passenger cabins both horizontally and vertically. The technology, called Multi, will allow several self-propelled cabins to share the same shaft, thus boosting transport capacities by up to 50%, while slashing elevator footprints by up half.

The Multi system will use technologies originally developed for the magnetically levitated (maglev) TransRapid train that ThyssenKrupp developed with Siemens. The company is also applying these technologies in a linear-motor-powered walkway system called Accel, which it says will achieve high capacities and high speeds for short distances, with no waiting times for passengers.

ThyssenKrupp says that the new elevator technology will improve efficiency, while reducing peak loads on building power supplies. The high efficiency will reduce the need for escalators and elevator shafts, resulting in significant savings on building costs as well generating higher rental incomes because of an increase in usable floor space. The company estimates that the technology could boost a building’s usable floor area by up to 25%. (Today’s elevators and escalators can occupy up to 40% of a building's floor space.)

Although the ideal building height for Multi installations starts at 300m, this system is not constrained by a building's height. Building designs will no longer be limited by the height or vertical alignment of elevator shafts, opening up previously unimagined possibilities for architects and building developers.

The system’s passenger cabins will follow a loop path – similar to existing paternoster systems – and move at a speeds of around 5m/s, allowing passengers to board a cabin every 15–30 seconds, with stops located about 50m apart. The use of lightweight carbon composite materials for the cabins and doors will results in a 50% weight reduction compared to standard elevators, while the linear drive system will use one motor for both horizontal and vertical movements. Power will be transferred inductively from the shaft to the cabins.

ThyssenKrupp is currently building a test tower in Germany that it will use to develop the new technology. “To get this ground-breaking product onto the market, our new test tower provides the perfect test and certification environment,” explains the company’s CEO, Andreas Schierenbeck. “The tower is set to be completed at the end of 2016, and by this time, we aim to have a running prototype of Multi.”

The limit of one cabin per shaft in conventional elevator systems has been compared to operating a single train on a railway line between two cites. ThyssenKrupp predicts that by combining its novel technology with a simple operating concept and passenger convenience, the Multi system will make the idea of a flexible number of cars per shaft a reality.

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