Sideways Elevators? ThyssenKrupp Is Turning Sci-Fi into Reality

If elevator design was governed by a legal code, law number one would state that elevator shafts must be perfectly vertical. Law number two would state that elevator cars must be attached to a suitably safe system of cables and counterweights. And law number three would state that any elevator that violates the first two laws must be off-limits to passengers until said violations have been corrected.

Good thing elevators aren’t governed by such a rigid code — or, if they are, that no one told the engineering whizzes at ThyssenKrupp about it. That’s because the German industrial conglomerate is hard at work on an elevator that appears (at first, second, and all subsequent glance(s))to break the immutable rules of elevator construction. Here’s a look at ThyssenKrupp’s so-called cableless elevator — and what it could mean for the future of architecture and urban design.

ThyssenKrupp’s Big Innovation

According to FastCompany, ThyssenKrupp’s new elevator — dubbed the Multi, ostensibly for “multi-directional” — lacks the high-strength steel cables that support virtually every elevator currently in operation.

Instead, the Multi uses a magnetic propulsion system similar to that found in maglev trains. This reduces friction and lurching, as well as one of the most important limitations to elevator shaft height: the weight of the steel cables that support the elevator. At a certain point, the cables are simply too heavy to support themselves in the configuration necessary to facilitate vertical travel.

What It Means for the Future of City-Building

ThyssenKrupp is building a massive, hollow tower in Rottweil, Germany, for the purposes of testing the Multi. The first runs are scheduled for 2016. If they’re successful, the Multi could enter service within a decade.

The Multi has two game-changing advantages. First, it basically removes height restrictions for supertall buildings, allowing elevator shafts to stretch to a mile or longer. (The longest is currently less than 1,700 feet.) Secondly, it allows for horizontal movement — the vehicle can simply switch from a vertical to a horizontal shaft at will. Taken together, these advantages could translate to taller, skinnier buildings; more effective intra-building transport; fewer elevator shafts overall; and, eventually, the development of a localized “interbuilding” transport system within urban cores.

Potential Industrial Applications

It’s also important to note that there’s no reason ThyssenKrupp’s cableless elevator system can’t be applied in non-passenger settings, such as raw materials transport and other industrial applications. As it currently stands, transporting substantial amounts of material in traditional factory and warehouse settings requires a bi-modal solution: carts or trams to handle horizontal transport and elevators or lift-like devices to handle vertical transport.

Cableless elevators could neatly solve this problem, and dramatically shrink the amount of space needed for transport applications in the process, using bi-directional shafts that go directly to active sites and minimize the need for transfers.

Bottoms Up…Or Sideways?

Ready to buy stock in ThyssenKrupp? So are thousands of other elevator buffs. Although it’ll take multiple leaps of faith from a multitude of building owners and urban planners to turn this innovation into an everyday reality, the mere concept is worth celebrating. And soon enough, you might be able to celebrate by actually riding in a cableless elevator. Bottoms up — or sideways — to that!

5 Elevator Pranks to Liven Up Your Workday

When was the last time you played a prank on a friend or colleague? If you’re a responsible adult with more to do than time in which to do it, you probably can’t even remember the last time you let your hair down and staked your prankster claim.

Were you ever to do so again, you’d wait for a weekend night out with your old buddies or a well-deserved destination vacation without the kids. You certainly wouldn’t risk donning your jokester hat on a regular old weekday morning. Would you?

Then again, why not have a little fun at the office — particularly in the elevator, which is literally and figuratively the stuffiest place in the building? As long as you keep your prank within the bounds of polite humor and acceptable office etiquette, these five elevator-related joke ideas will have your coworkers chuckling and your personal stock soaring.

  1. Push the Wrong Buttons

If you’re standing within easy reach of the elevator’s buttons, it’s only polite to ask new arrivals which floor they’re heading to. Under normal circumstances, you’d process their selection and hit the correct button.

But what if you didn’t?

Next time you’re on an elevator, casually ask each arrival for their destination. Then, calmly input the wrong floor. An uncomfortable silence or awkward “But…” is sure to follow. Make sure to milk it for all it’s worth!

  1. Give ‘em the ‘ol Desk Routine

Looking for a more elaborate elevator prank? Carry a desk, lamp and computer (optional) into an empty elevator. Wait until someone gets on and ask if they have an appointment. How much do you want to bet they’ll have no clue what to say? Carry this on as long as building security allows.

  1. Pretend You’re on a Secret Spy Mission

Remember the extended elevator scene in Mission Impossible? Well, just pretend you’re Tom Cruise and you’ve got a whole supporting cast behind you. No one has to know the truth!

  1. Try to Open the Doors By Yourself

Whenever your elevator stops at a new floor, rush to the door (without knocking anyone over) and attempt to open them yourself. Grunt, strain or scream for effect. Once they finally open, look embarrassed and say something to the effect of “I knew that would happen anyway.” Repeat as necessary — just wait until the elevator stops!

  1. Ghost Ride the Elevator

If you’re the last person to get off the elevator and no one gets on at your destination floor, hit a random button just before you step off. You’ll send the elevator to a hopefully-occupied floor without anyone calling it. Imagine what the folks walking by will think when they see a “ghost” elevator open with no one inside and no one waiting or calling it? You might not be there to see the results, but you can bet any passers-by with a sense of humor will thank you for your creativity.

If none of these elevator pranks excites you, there are plenty more where they came from. Why not try out your own and see how it goes? Just remember to tread lightly: Laughter is only the best medicine until someone gets hurt.

The World’s Fastest Elevators

In 1857, in New York City, the Otis Elevator Company installed the first commercial passenger elevator. It was high-tech stuff, climbing the heights at a staggering rate of 40 feet per minute. It was a modern-day marvel, for its day.

Fast forward to 2015, and you’ll find countries around the world racing to build ever taller skyscrapers. This has given birth to an unofficial competition among elevator manufacturers to develop a new generation of elevators to keep pace with the size of these new buildings. To keep up, elevator makers such as Mitsubishi, Hitachi and Toshiba have looked to improved technology. Manufacturers are putting new motors and advanced air pressure systems to use, allowing them to move people higher and faster.

If you’re looking to take a ride on one of the fastest elevators in the world, you’ll have to do a bit of traveling. Here are the top elevators that will satisfy your need for speed:

Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan

A set of twin elevators in this tower top the list with a speed of 3,313 feet per minute, or 37.7 mph. At this speed, it takes a full 30 seconds to travel from the ground floor up to the roof, located 1,670 feet above. Toshiba supplied these two high-speed elevators to the Taipei 101 Tower, at a cost of more than $2 million.

Yokohama Landmark Tower, Yokohama, Japan

This impressive tower has an elevator bank of 79 elevators total and includes the fastest elevator in Japan. Its impressive speed also places it in the list of the fastest elevators in the world. Mitsubishi supplied the elevators for the Yokohama Landmark Tower, which reaches a height of 971 feet. The elevator moves people up and down inside the building at an impressive rate of 2,460 feet per minute, or 28 mph. That translates into 24 seconds of your life to get you from the ground floor, up the 971 feet to the top of this imposing tower.

Burj Khalifa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The double-decker elevators in this amazing tower have a capacity of 12 to 14 people per cabin. Racing at a speed of 1,968.5 feet per minute, or 22 mph, these Otis-built elevators will whisk you up the 2,717 feet, from ground floor to roof, in a short 1 minute, 22 seconds.

Sunshine 60 Building, Tokyo, Japan

There is a popular observation deck at the top of the Sunshine 60 Building in Tokyo. On a clear day, visitors can see as far as 62 miles. Supplied by Mitsubishi, this elevator will lift you from the ground floor, upward 787 feet to the roof, in 24 seconds. That means you’re traveling at a speed of 1,968.5 feet per minute, or 22 mph.

John Hancock Center, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

Those who are adventurous can take the stairs at the John Hancock Center, walking up the 1,632 steps to the Observatory above. Those not interested in a workout can take the Otis elevator, traveling at a speed of 1,801 feet per minute, or 20.5 mph, to travel the 1,129 feet to the Observatory in 38 seconds.

Not Your Average Lift: Check out these ultra-strange elevators

Ah, the life of an elevator. You go up, you come down, you “ding” a little, and you put the whole parade on repeat. People love you because you get them where they need to go, but are you really satisfied with the way things turned out?

Well, elevators aren’t smart enough — yet — to ponder existential questions about their purpose in the universe. But were mechanical elevators a sentient species, there would be more than a few with very complex issues to think through.

Case in point: These ultra-strange elevators that do a whole lot more than ferry office drones or condo-dwellers from one floor to the next.


That’s German for “AquaDome,” apparently. Tucked into a trendy Radisson Blu hotel in central Berlin, AquaDom is an 80-plus-foot elevator encased in a 260,000 gallon aquarium tank. If that’s not mind-bending enough, there are actual fish in the aquarium. Popular Mechanics has all the watery details on this stunning piece of modern engineering. No word on how much the elevator cost, but we venture to guess a lot of elevator buffs are about to figure out how much plane tickets to Berlin will set them back.

Anderton Boat Lift

Boat lifts were once vital to the functioning of the small canals that dotted the hilly British landscape. Back before the advent of reliable, easily controlled hydraulic technology that could raise or lower boats in locks, these boat elevators literally lifted boats out of the water at one end of a canal and deposited it in the “next” (higher or lower) canal, obviating the need for a lock. Anderton Boat Lift is one of the finest and best-preserved examples of a boat lift.

Luxor Hotel Elevators

Las Vegas’s Luxor hotel is immediately recognizable on the city’s skyline: “It’s the pyramid one, mom!” Turns out pyramid-shaped hotels need diagonal elevators; Luxor’s follow a shaft set at a 39-degree angle. Talk about a dizzying ride.

Gateway Arch Tram

Same idea, different application. St. Louis’s Gateway Arch is basically a hollow half-circle with an observation deck at its highest point. To get there, visitors need to ride a tram that follows the curve of the arch — starting at a nearly vertical angle, then leveling off as the vehicle nears the top.

The Mitsubishi Bullet Elevator

Who’d be crazy enough to design an elevator shaped like a bullet? The mad scientists at Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation, that’s who. Mitsubishi’s brand-new bullet elevator, complete with a tapered tip and aerodynamic skin, is slated for installation soon in a supertall Shanghai skyscraper.

It Gets Weirder

These are just a few of the many “alternative” elevator types that make the world go ‘round. Believe it or not, brilliant people at major universities and corporations are hard at work designing even stranger elevators, or at least technological components that may one day make extant elevators just that much weirder. On balance, this is a great thing for society. And it’s definitely less boring than your daily elevator journey.

Space Elevator: Is It Going to Happen?

The concept of an elevator into space is nothing new; engineers and scientists have talked about it for more than 100 years. Until now, it was nothing more than an extremely exciting dream. But a remarkable advance in nanotechnology could mean riding a space elevator on a diamond cable may not be out of the question.

Penn State University’s scientists published a research paper recently that detailed the steps needed to produce ultra-thin “diamond nanothreads.” These cylinders of carbon atoms are so small, the naked human eye cannot see them. Their tensile strength, however, is almost a hundred times stronger than steel. A space elevator would consist of a carbon nanotube cable between the surface of the Earth and the surface of the moon. Levitating magnetic robotic cars would then run up and down it, transporting people and supplies.

Ride to the Border of Space

Making a trip to the moon via a space elevator would take about seven days. People and/or cargo making that 59,651-mile trip would have to be accommodated for that amount of time. That’s twice as long as a spacecraft would take to make the trip. However, the cost to travel up on the space elevator would be much lower.

That’s quite a motivation to make a space elevator a reality, and Japanese construction firm Obayashi Corporation is focusing on the challenge. Obayashi announced recently that they will have a functioning space elevator in the coming 35 years or so. Several universities have agreed to work with Obayashi in developing the parts for the elevator. Central to the concept, however, is the development of the nanotube cable.

Research scientists at Obayashi Corporation believe that a nanotube cable long enough to support a space elevator will be possible by 2030. Right now, however, the length of the cable that can be produced is a mere 3 cm. in length.

Potential problems

Not everyone is so optimistic. There are still technological, logistical and political problems that must be overcome before a space elevator venture could become reality. Here’s some of the possible deal-breakers when it comes to constructing a space elevator:

  • Strong building material needed. This is the biggest problem. While some researchers tout the properties of nanotube cable, others express concern that the hexagonal bonds of the carbon nanotubes will simply unravel when exposed to the amount of strain a space elevator would face.
  • Dangerous vibrations.  Some have expressed concern that the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun, coupled with unstable pressures from gusts of solar wind, would shake the space elevator’s cable.

Climbers wobble.  Because of the Coriolis Effect, a climber on the space elevator would create a wobble effect. This would force the cable in the opposite directions of the Earth’s rotation.  Mechanical engineers predict this would pull the elevator out of its vertical alignment, causing it to swing back and forth like a pendulum. When dealing with a distance as long as a space elevator would be, even the smallest of deviations would result in a wobble. This would, in turn, cause a wobble that resulted in the end of the cable being far removed from the orbital position that was intended.