The Schindler elevator and escalator company, based at Ebikon near Lucerne, has launched a world innovation - the first fully synthetic elevator rope.
SchindlerAramid is manufactured from the plastic material bearing the same name - aramid - which has been used in the space and aircraft industries.
"I think the development of this aramid rope and the result we achieved is really a quantum leap in the industry, and I am sure that it will set new standards," says Schindler vice-chairman Luc Bonnard.
On average, a rope consists of 300,000 individual filaments and has the same strength as steel ropes but it is much lighter and has a very long service life.
Schindler says the rope's unique characteristics completely revolutionise the entire elevator system.
Among its qualities, the aramid rope is four times lower in weight and has a life-span four times that of steel. Travel heights as high as 2,400 metres can be achieved, four times the present possible height of 600 metres.
The aramid rope makes it possible to use much smaller and more efficient gearless drives with low weight, which considerably reduce installation time, energy consumption and the amount of materials used.
The rope also features a novel safety device. Built into each aramid rope is a number of electrical-conducting carbon fibres which allow permanent electronic monitoring. Even the slightest damage or wear of the ropes is detected and communicated to the elevator control.
"For example, if the elevator is in London and your 24-hour service centre is in Birmingham, you can control this over distance. In Birmingham, you know exactly the condition of the rope in London," Bonnard explains.
Protected by some 20 patents worldwide, the rope is already attracting industry attention. At the end of April, Schindler signed a contract to supply aramid ropes to Mitsubishi, the largest manufacturer of elevators in Asia.
The aramid rope will be used for the first time with the new SchindlerEuroLift which comes on to the market in the second half of this year. This has no machine room, is fitted with gearless permanent-magnet drive as standard, and is intended for buildings with up to 30 floors.
by Robert Brookes