Elevator - The Development History

Date:2016-09-18

An elevator is a platform, either open or enclosed, used for lifting people or freight to upper floors within a building. Elevators are a standard part of any tall commercial or residential building.

Manually operated elevators were used for lifting freight in warehouses and manufacturing plants as early as the 1600s. The modern elevator is a direct descendant of a design first shown by Elisha G. Otis at the New York World's Fair in 1853. A notable feature of the Otis elevator, and the principal reason for its popular acceptance, was a safety device that immediately engaged and held the elevator in the event the hoisting cables broke.

In fact, the first elevators were operated by steam power to turn the cable drums. In 1871, the first hydraulic elevators were introduced using water pressure as the source of power. At first, the hydraulic rams were one-piece, which meant a hole had to be dug under the elevator shaft as deep as the elevator was to be high. Later, multiple-section, telescoping hydraulic rams allowed shallower holes. In many cities, hydraulic power for these early elevators was supplied by power companies which installed and maintained networks of hydraulic piping throughout the city. Then, the first commercially successful electric elevator was installed in 1889, and electricity quickly became the accepted source of power.

Electric-powered elevators offered two significant advantages. First, electric power was clearly becoming universally available, and any building likely to be equipped with an elevator would also have electric power. Second, hydraulic elevators were severely limited in the height to which they could rise, while electric elevators, using a simple cable and pulley system, had virtually no height limit.

For many years, electric elevators used either direct current (DC) motors or alternating current (AC) motors. Today, almost all elevators use one of two types of AC motors: the most common are geared motors for elevators moving at speeds up to 500 feet per minute (153 m per minute), while direct-drive motors are used for elevators moving at higher speeds. Some modern high-speed elevators move at up to 2,000 feet per minute (610 m per minute).

Control systems on early elevators required human operators to regulate the speed of the lift and descent, to stop the elevator at each floor, and to open and close the doors. In the 1950s, automatic pushbutton control systems replaced manual controls. And in the 1970s, electromechanical controls were gradually replaced with solid state electronic controls.

Riding in a small box hundreds of feet in the air would be a disconcerting experience if one were not convinced of its safety. Therefore, electric elevators are equipped with two primary safety mechanism, namely, a governor which controls the elevator's speed by controlling the speed of the cable pulleys, and the emergency brake which consists of jaws that grip the elevator guide rails in the event the cables break.

Besides, elevators also include electromechanical door interlocks to prevent the elevator from operating if the door is not completely closed and to protect passengers from being trapped by the closing door. The same door interlocks also prevent the outer doors on each floor from opening if the elevator is not present. Most elevators are equipped with a telephone, and sometimes a trap door in the ceiling, so that passengers can call for help or escape if Passenger Elevator becomes stuck between floors.

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