Levitator: innovation that can change escalators

What is the usual mechanical device which is found in buildings of all types throughout the world today, did not undergo essentially no change since the invention of more than 100 years ago? If you guessed that this escalator, you’re right. However recently patented innovation is one of the first major changes in the design of the escalators since their invention in the late XIX century. The device is called levitator. Its patented in 2010, Jack Levy, professor emeritus of engineering at London’s City University.

the traditional design of the escalator steps redundant steps move under used, which greatly limits the possibilities of design. However levitatore uses a continuous loop of curved interlinked steps that can move along any path: up, down, flat, straight or curved — and thus carry passengers.

According to Levy, all escalators are based on the same design, which appeared in 1897. The invention Levi — one of the first times, when someone went back to the drawing board and began to think about how you can build an escalator from the ground up using modern technology. This innovative design enables architects to create virtually any desired escalators they type, including free-form curve.

New features

— The need for transportation of people between floors quickly and effectively dictates the creation of sets of direct devices in the atria and open spaces — says Levy. — Well, if these devices will be able to repeat the form of an open space, or can be bent? This opens up a whole new world of possibilities for architects.

Imagine, for example, levitator the double-helix structure of DNA in the building for biological organization, or for the safe use of levitatora moving tour of the theme park.

According to David Cheng, director of the Center for Information Leadership City University and the project consultant, levitator opens up new prospects for architects in buildings of various types. Since it does not require excavation for the feedback circuit can be installed on top of existing stairs with a minimum of disruption.

Levitator patented in the UK, Europe, USA and China, Cheng said that London City University is actively looking for strategic partners with architects and companies-manufacturers to release levitator market. Cheng argues that, since the system can be transported in each stage twice as many people than a traditional escalator (at constant prices), this offer is attractive from a financial point of view.

Overcoming the technical difficulties

Surprisingly, the specialization and expertise Levy are not associated with the production of elevators and escalators, and industrial production and design. He began his activity in the aircraft and working on a wide range of structural and technological issues, heading the Department of Mechanical Engineering at City University London.

For many years, Levy used the escalators of the London Underground, which made him think about the possibility of creating a model of the escalator with a few twists. According to him:

— After developing the initial concept emerged two major technical problems. The first was to develop a compound which would allow horizontal movement between stages along the vertical, and the second — to close the gap (for security) between the curved wall and the stationary side straight moving stages. The solutions of both the problems included in the patent.

One of the architectural firms, with the City University of discussing the possibility of commercial use in London levitatora — a company PLP / Architecture. Director of the research work of this company Lars Hesselgren said that started to deal with the design of the curved escalator a few years ago, but later abandoned it as his firm is not the manufacturer.

— Then — continues Hesselgren — when a demonstration video on levitatore appeared in the YouTube, people started asking me if this is not my invention. Obviously, Jack and I have been thinking about the same. We want to work with developers levitatora to implement this idea, because we have a fairly clear idea of ​​how it can be used. We think that levitatore laid the potential to change the world of escalators, as we know it.

Less cost, more flexibility

Hesselgren believes levitator allow designers and architects to build escalators cheaper and with greater flexibility. Often, the entire building is created around the escalators, which limits the possibilities of design. Now escalators can not be used as a means of emergency escape, but levitator can make a difference.

Hesselgren sees levitatore creative way to owners and designers shopping centers to attract more buyers to the upper floors. Since levitator can bring people up more convenient and efficient way, it should draw the attention of shopping centers.

According to Levy, the cost of installing levitatora will be similar to the cost of installing a traditional escalator. But as levitator can carry twice as many people at each step, the cost in terms of useful step is halved. In addition, all maintenance and inspection can be carried out from the top, which reduces downtime and maintenance costs.

Hesselgren believes that the ground instead of underground service will be able to turn the whole transport system of Metro. Escalators that bring people into the underground transport systems can be shut down for maintenance for months, levitator theoretically can reduce the time, labor and costs by half. Underground systems such as the new Crossrail project in London designed, based on the installation of escalators that should be straight. Hesselgren believes that the system of curved escalators levitatora type can significantly reduce costs.

It’s not a spiral escalator

If you think you’ve seen a spiral escalator escalator or a free-form, maybe it is so. Construction of spiral escalators patented earlier — some of them even at the beginning of the XX century. Mitsubishi is one of the manufacturers of spiral escalators, since 1986 it has established about 100 such systems in different countries, mainly in Asia (about 4 of the escalator in the year).

Dave Turner, an American consultant for elevators and escalators, is familiar with the structure of spiral escalators, he says:

— Real receives spiral escalators in a limited amount because of their high cost of manufacture, installation and maintenance.

Cheng explains that levitator — is much more than a spiral escalator:

— The principal difference between levitatorom and spiral escalator of Mitsubishi is that the latter must follow a circular path with a fixed radius. In levitatore each stage can go straight, then move along a curved path radius, and then go on a curved path of another radius. In other words, the configuration can be set levitatora different shapes.

And Levi and Cheng recognize the difficulties associated with the adoption in the market of this new technology as levitator. Faced with a number of obstacles in the beginning of his attempts to sell levitator manufacturing companies, they went the other way, focusing on the sale of the system are not manufacturers, and architects, designers schemes and even consumers.

For example, a video on YouTube levitatore system for November 2010 has been viewed 226 times LLC. According to Cheng, «if we can get people interested, they will come to us. This is what happens now. «

Levy believes that after the installation of about six levitatorov all barriers fail, and it will expand the capabilities of architects in the design of non-linear forms. One of the main issues is the cost of developing a concept prototype, which should be designed.

The main thing — is security

Of course, levitatore should be taken into account the safety of passengers and adds Turner, «there are many security issues that must be addressed in the design levitatora.»

With this agreement, Jim Markuski Consultant elevators and escalators:

— From an engineering point of view, first of all I’m trying to figure out what we should expect from the troubles of a design. Therefore, I would like to know how to behave levitator at high loads, whether it will work safely? At the same time, I think, there will be a problem with the proper installation and assembly of the guides. And besides, can you follow the necessary approvals, and what about the quality of vibration and movement? However, I see what this system is like architects, and I can appreciate its unlimited potential, if it will work in accordance with the concept and ideas of developers.

Looking to the future, beyond the adoption of the first period, Levy believes that levitator able to expand the entire market of elevators / escalators at 20%, because it can be used where it is impossible to install conventional escalators and moving walkways. It can replace some elevators with attractive cost parameters for the owners.

Turner also believes that levitatora great potential if all goes well it will be possible to overcome all difficulties:

— If Levi succeeds with its design, its use will be limited only by the imagination of the architect or the designer of the building and the cost of the vehicle.

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