How carbon-fibre cables are reducing the need for troublesome lift tranfers
Carbon-fibre UltraRope technology is an alternative to using steel cables in elevator systems. This pioneering technology allows lifts to travel up to 1km in a single run, double what is currently possible with a round steel traction cable.
Developed by Finnish lift and escalator manufacturer Kone, it was first introduced in 2013. The product is currently in use at the Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore. It is also being installed in the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, which will be the tallest building in the world when it is completed in 2018.
Strong, lightweight and flat, the UltraRope is made of carbon-fibre with a high friction polyurethane coating.
Multiple strands of UltraRope are used to hoist each elevator car, operating in parallel to share the load. This revolutionary ‘hoisting technology’ has considerable benefits over the traditional round steel rope that is typically used in elevator systems.
UltraRope is significantly lighter than traditional steel rope which means the weight of the elevator system and associated machinery can be downsized. It also does away with the need for a transfer floor in tall buildings.
Halfway up the Shard, London’s tallest skyscraper, passengers are asked to step out of the elevator in order to switch to another. This is called the transfer floor or “sky lobby”, a necessary inconvenience in order to reach the upper half of the building and a symptom of the limits of elevators today.
To ascend a mile-high (1.6km) tower using standard metal cables could require changing elevators as many as 10 times. Waiting around on that many transfer floors would be a major hassle and extremely time consuming. In addition, valuable floor space would be used up – floorspace that can’t be let. Too much unlettable space and a super-tall skyscraper could become financially unviable.
The UltraRope’s weight is the real innovation: as lift cables get longer, the weight of cable itself can account for far more than the car and its passengers, requiring huge machines to operate it. The UltraRope is 90% lighter than the equivalent steel cable, thereby reducing the load and enabling far taller continuous runs.
The UltraRope is a ground-breaking yet peculiar object, the product of technological refinement and materials science it is paving the way for a whole new generation of super-tall skyscrapers. An important consideration as urbanisation brings increasing numbers of people to our cities across the globe.
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