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Mitsubishi Plans to Build Elevator Factory in South Korea

Mitsubishi Elevator factory South KoreaMitsubishi Electric Corporation announced recently that it plans to construct a new factory for Mitsubishi Elevator Korea, Ltd. in the Songdo area of the Incheon Free Economic Zone in South Korea.

KMEC’s development and manufacturing bases will be relocated to the new facility. The move is expected to increase Mitsubishi Electric’s ability to respond to needs for high-speed elevators around the world. The company plans to expand annual production 2.5 times to produce a total of 4,000 elevators per year.

The new facility’s research and development center will absorb some development functions that are currently located at the Inazawa Works, Mitsubishi Electric’s factory in Aichi Prefecture, Japan that produces elevators and escalators. KMEC will be able to more closely collaborate with the Inazawa Works in product development and improve its response to global market needs.

The new facility will place a special emphasis on the integration of sales, engineering, development, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance. KMEC’s product development and verification processes will more fully reflect market needs.

Mitsubishi Electric plans to upgrade its high-speed elevators. It will begin to offer elevators that can travel at speeds of up to 360 meters per minute in the near future.

Producing high-speed elevators in South Korea will help Mitsubishi in terms of price competitiveness. KMEC will be better able to supply global markets, particularly in the ASEAN and Middle Eastern regions, as well as in other locations.

The new factory will increase production of NexPia series elevators that were designed for South Korean low-rise buildings. The demand for new elevators and escalators is expected to reach about 24,000 units in the fiscal year that ends in March.

Could Driverless Cars Become as Commonplace as Elevators?

driverless carSelf-driving cars have the potential to revolutionize transportation. Some people who are working on developing the technology compare them to another form of transportation that most people take for granted: elevators. Chris Urmson, who leads Google’s self-driving car project, and Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, have both compared driverless cars to elevators.

Elevators changed both people’s perceptions and the way they physically moved in buildings and cities. Before the dawn of the elevator, residents wanted to live on lower floors to avoid having to climb long flights of stairs. After elevators became commonplace, people preferred to live on higher floors.

With elevators a possibility, architects could design taller buildings. This led to cities full of skyscrapers and created new public spaces with their own rules of etiquette.

elevatorsElevators have changed dramatically over time. In the early days, trained operators used cranks and levers to move people from floor to floor. Today, people simply press buttons. Motion sensors can detect a person and hold a door.

Urmson pointed out a parallel in the way both elevators and driverless cars were introduced. With elevators, people could not imagine completely giving up control to the machine, so they relied on an elevator operator. Over time, people gained confidence and realized they did not need operators.

Urmson believes that driverless cars may soon become so common that people will take them for granted like elevators. Musk predicted that in the future people may prefer driverless cars so much that human driving will be illegal.

Space Elevator Q&A

space elevator Ask Me AnythingThe concept of building an elevator to space has intrigued scientists for years and may become a reality. Four people behind a documentary about the concept called “Skyline” sat down for an Ask Me Anything session with Reddit’s Ask Science community. They were aerospace engineer Jerome Pearson; retired software engineer and past president of the International Space Elevator Consortium Ted Semon; Michael Laine, founder of LiftPort Group, a company that has been working on a space elevator since 2002; and filmmaker Miguel Drake-McLaughlin.

The scientists believe that a space elevator will become a reality. However, they believe the technology needed to build one on the moon is currently more advanced than the technology needed to build one on Earth.

Scientists are working on several materials that could potentially be used to build a space elevator cable. They include carbon nanotubes, boron nitride nanotubes, carbyne, graphene, and diamonds.

Current designs call for a tether extending 60,000 miles into space. It would take four or five days to get to geostationary orbit and only a few hours to get to low Earth orbit. Climber speed would be very slow in the atmosphere and faster after leaving the atmosphere.

The lifter could be powered by lasers or solar power. With solar power, there would be “dead” periods when the elevator was in the Earth’s shadow, but they would get shorter and would eventually disappear as it went higher. A hybrid system using lasers or electric power and then switching to solar power might also be used.

The scientists say a space elevator would have no maximum load. It could be scaled up to carry thousands of tons at one time. Several loads could be transported on the tether at once according to a schedule.

The scientists propose using a space vehicle, the ElectroDynamic Debris Eliminator, to capture space junk in low Earth orbit so it would not collide with the space elevator. It could be used to build structures in LEO.

Severe weather could potentially damage the space elevator. Scientists would put it near the equator in an area that generally does not have strong storms. The elevator would have redundant cables in case one was damaged by a storm. If a storm occurred in the area of the space elevator, operations would be stopped until it passed.

The space elevator would be built in a remote location in the ocean far from populated areas and shipping lanes. If the cable collapsed for some reason, the location would be so remote that it would not pose a danger to people.

Demand for Elevators is Slowing in China

elevator market ChinaTwo-thirds of all elevators are sold in China. The demand for elevators is declining in the country due to changes in demographics, and it is possible that it may never return to the level where it was at its peak.

Chinese elevator demand peaked at 600,000 units last year, but it may fall to 500,000 next year if predictions turn out to be correct. This is due to a surplus of apartments and a slowdown in the movement of people to large cities.

After the projected decline, the market may stabilize, but demand might never rebound. Elevator makers will need to adjust their output based on demand, and smaller manufacturers may be forced to go out of business.

The decline in Chinese demand is the greatest threat facing elevator makers. Real estate investment is also declining in China and is relying heavily on government stimulus. Buildings in China have been getting taller and taller, with the title of the tallest building in the country changing hands several times over the past 20 years. China is headed for its slowest economic growth in 25 years.

In response to the slowdown in the Chinese elevator market, Otis Elevator is increasing its investment in Japan. Otis plans to add about 20 engineers to its team in Shibayama, which currently has 35 or 40 people. The engineers will work on cutting-edge elevators that will have sensors and remote monitoring that can read signals from guests’ cell phones and take them to the floors where their hotel rooms are located.

Falkirk Wheel Boat Lift Is an Engineering Marvel

Falkirk Wheel boat liftThe Falkirk Wheel is a rotating boat lift that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal in central Scotland. It was opened by Queen Elizabeth II during her Golden Jubilee in 2002 and was named after the nearby town of Falkirk. It is the only rotating boat lift in the world and one of only two boat lifts in the United Kingdom.

The Falkirk Wheel was built as part of the Millennium Link project to reconnect the canals for the first time since the 1930s. Planners wanted to create a dramatic 21st century landmark.

The Lotteries Act 1993 raised funds that the Millennium Commission used for good causes in the public interest. The commission provided 42 percent of the money needed for the project. The remaining funds came from British Waterways, seven local councils, Scottish Enterprise, the European Regional Development Fund, and private donations.

The wheel was designed to last for at least 120 years. It was constructed at the Butterley Engineering plant in Ripley, Derbyshire and then transported and reassembled in Falkirk.

The wheel lifts boats 24 meters, but they must go through a pair of locks to raise them an additional 11 meters to the Union Canal. The wheel has a diameter of 35 meters. Two opposing arms extend 15 meters beyond the central axle. The arms are in the shape of a Celtic-inspired, double-headed axe.

Two diametrically-opposed water-filled caissons are located between the ends of the arms. The caissons always carry a combined weight of 500 tonnes in water and boats. A computer control system regulates the water levels on each side. The caissons can hold up to four 20-meter-long canal boats.

The machinery that drives the wheel is located in the aqueduct’s final pillar. The transformers are on the ground floor. A standby generator and switchgear are on the first floor in case the main power supply fails. A pair of hydraulic pumps that drive the hydraulic motors are located on the ground floor. Ten hydraulic motors supply power to the axle and double as brakes. A 100:1 gear system is connected to each motor to reduce the rotation speed.

A gearing system causes the caissons to turn at the correct speed and to stay correctly balanced. The ends of the caissons are supported on small wheels that run on rails on the inside face of the holes at the ends of the arms. The large central gear is loosely fitted over the axle at the end with the machine room and held in place to keep it from rotating.

Two smaller gears are fixed to each of the wheel’s arms at the end with the machine room. The motors rotate the central axle, the arms swing, the small gears engage the central gear, and the smaller gears rotate at a faster speed than the wheel in the same direction. The smaller gears engage large ring gears at the ends of the caissons and turn them at the same speed as the wheel but in the other direction. This movement cancels the arms’ rotation and keeps the caissons stable and completely level.

Since the load changes as the wheel rotates in opposite directions, some sections of the lift experience total stress reversals. The sections were bolted rather than welded to avoid fatigue and cracks.

A visitor center is located near the lower basin. Visitors can take boat trips approximately every hour. About 400,000 people visit the Falkirk Wheel every year.

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