Unexpectedly Intriguing!
September 8, 2017

If you believe Tim Harford, and you should, the elevator is one of the 50 things that made the modern economy.

But the elevator as we have known it since 1852 has had some major practical limitations. Specifically, elevators can generally only go up or down, and despite such theoretical concepts as the Wonkavator, elevators that can be found to do more than just move up and down a single shaft are few and far in between.

One of those few and far in between places is ThyssenKrupp's prototype elevator test facility in Rottheim, Germany, where the company's MULTI elevators can go up, down, and sideways. (HT: Core77).

If it proves feasible, this is the kind of development that could significantly reshape the architecture of major cities, much as the invention of the safety elevator itself enabled the practical construction of skyscrapers that helped create the modern city skyline.

"Where a full cabin is stopping at every floor and people are smiling at each other outside and inside the elevator and nobody is getting out or in, this will change," said Andreas Schierenbeck, CEO of ThyssenKrupp Elevator.

"Instead you fill a cabin with six to eight people and they're going to the exact location where you want without any stops—it's like a metro system where you stop at the station where you want."...

"With the horizontal movement of the MULTI, you can connect buildings. You can connect train stations with your buildings, you could even have your own cabin waiting for you at your hotel room—all these things which have been a little bit science fiction maybe three, four, five years ago are now possible,” added Schierenbeck.

The potential applications go beyond buildings. Laid out horizontally, the same technologies that ThyssenKrupp is pioneering in its elevator application could reshape modern manufacturing by better facilitating the flow of production from one work station to another, or to even reconfigure the layout of modular work stations themselves on the fly as needed to meet changing production requirements.

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