What's in a Shaft? - Runners & Machinery
In general for the most common purposes there are only a couple of different types of lift in operation today. The traction elevator consists of a series of steel ropes being pulled over pulleys to hoist the lift, making use of a counterweight in order to effectively ease the burden on the motors. A hydraulic lift on the other hand makes use of a large piston which can either be positioned above or below the lift and will push or pull the lift to its destination. Some lifts are built in pairs, with one acting as counterweight for the other and some elevators combine hydraulics and cables to power the lift.
For the most part, the lift shaft is merely a set of runners to help guide the lift along the correct path. In order to fulfil this function the shaft must be reinforced to cope with any stresses and strains that may be caused during lift operation, and must provide a safety backup should something go wrong. Modern lifts can often include over 20 different safety mechanisms to avoid injury of passengers if the worst should happen.
Of course, the lift shaft must also contain sets of elevator doors on each floor to prevent people from falling in. Usually both the shaft and the lift itself are equipped with one or more sliding, cascade-style doors that open laterally. Occasionally, especially in cheaper elevator designs, one large laterally opening slab door will be found on the lift and shaft.
Goodbye Machine Room
As mentioned briefly above, modern lift designs often try to negate the need for an external machine room by including the operating mechanisms directly into the shaft, making the whole system relatively self-contained. The main downside to this approach is that the lift becomes somewhat harder to maintain and repair since the machinery can be hard to reach. These types of lifts are also usually only suitable for small to medium rise buildings and do not scale that well.
Division of Labour
For complicated lift projects, the need to build large and complex lift shafts can be a time-consuming part of the job that adds dozens of man hours onto the project and takes time away from the meat of the project: the lift itself. There are a number of companies that offer help with this aspect of lift construction and specialise purely in building efficient lift shafts, rather than the lifts that go in them. Therefore it is not uncommon to find robust lift systems that were designed and built by more than one company working in tandem.
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