Cutting the Cord: Cable-Free Elevators near reality

Cutting The Cord: Cable-Free ElevatorS Near Reality


by JOHN GREGERSON | Nov 10, 2015

You never know which direction the future may come from. Even the seemingly predictable, up-and-down world of elevators has thrown us a curveball. This month, Duisburg, Germany-based elevator engineering giant ThyssenKrupp (TK) demonstrated that it is now close to literally turning vertical transportation technology on its side. On Nov. 5, the firm unveiled a fully functional 1:3 scale-model of its game-changing MULTI elevator at its corporate Innovation Center in Gijon, Spain.

By incorporating linear motors rather than cables, MULTI promises to accommodate horizontal and inclined movement while transforming elevator transportation into networks that TK likens to vertical subway lines. The 1:3 model consists of four lightweight, compact cabs and a pair of 33-ft-high shafts, with linear motor technology adapted from the TK's magnetic levitation train Transrapid. As designed, MULTI will allow several self-propelled elevator cabins to circulate in a loop in a single shaft, increasing shaft transport capacity by 50% while reducing elevator footprints by the same amount.

Absent cables, MULTI operates on a multi-level break system and inductive power that transfers from shaft to cabin. Because the system features smaller shafts – about two-thirds the size of their conventional counterparts – TK says it can increase a facility's usable area by up to 25%, potentially offsetting a higher initial cost that building owners would incur in acquiring MULTI. It also has the potential to shake up the architecture profession's long-standing approach to skyscrapers. 

With MULTI elevators circulating at a rate 16.5 feet per second, TK estimates the cabs will provide rider access every 15-30 seconds, resulting in less waiting time and greater productivity.

“As the nature of building construction evolves, it is necessary to adapt elevator systems to better suit the requirements of buildings and high volumes of passengers,” said ThyssenKrup Elevator CEO Andreas Schierenbeck at last week's unveiling. “MULTI will be our answer to to tomorrow's challenges.”

Of course, the first of the real heavy lifting will start when TK begins operating its system on new 761-ft-high test tower, now under construction in Rothwell, Germany. Testing should begin late next year, and if all goes as planned, the MULTI could be commercially available by 2020.

It is worth noting that while MULTI would be the world's first cable-free elevator system for buildings, a similar system for ships was introduced last year by MagneMotion, Devens, MA. The firm makes "intelligent conveyor systems, based on linear synchronous motor technology." Potentially ideal for floating cities, the U.S. Navy signed on last year to use the system on aircraft carriers. Applications on land may not be far off, however. Engineering giant ARUP also is interested in MagneMotion, as evidenced by the video below, released last spring.

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