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How Elevators Works

The annoying thing about elevators (if you're trying to understand them) is that their working parts are usually covered up! From the viewpoint of someone traveling from the lobby to the 18th floor, an elevator is simply a metal box with doors that close on one floor and then open again on another. For those of us who are more curious, the key parts of an elevator are:

  • One or more cars (metal boxes) that rise up and down.
  • Counterweights that balance the cars.
  • An electric motor that hoists the cars up and down, including a braking system.
  • A system of strong metal cables and pulleys running between the cars and the motors.
  • Various safety systems to protect the passengers if a cable breaks.
  • In large buildings, an electronic control system that directs the cars to the correct floors using a so-called "elevator algorithm" (a sophisticated kind of mathematical logic) to ensure large numbers of people are moved up and down in the quickest, most efficient way (particularly important in huge, busy skyscrapers at rush hour). Intelligent systems are programmed to carry many more people upward than downward at the beginning of the day and the reverse at the end of the day.


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