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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.

Indiana Grain Elevator Project Hits a Snag

Indiana grain elevator housingHamilton County Area Neighborhood Development (HAND) in Indiana has hit a roadblock in its attempt to secure funding for a $12 million mixed-use proposal. HAND has proposed turning an old grain elevator in Noblesville into affordable housing.

On October 7, several people spoke both in support of and against the proposal at a meeting of the Hamilton County Council. The council declined to vote on a resolution to support funding for the project.

The proposal, which is known as the Elevator and Lofts at the Noblesville Granary, calls for 54 one- and two-bedroom affordable apartments, a business incubator space, and 4,000 square feet of commercial retail space. HAND has already reached an agreement with North Central Co-op, which currently owns the two-acre property, to purchase it for $575,000. The Co-op started to demolish the 85-foot grain elevator earlier this year.

Hamilton County Commissioners approved $225,000 in community development block grant funds for the project in late September. However, it denied HAND’s appeal for $250,000 from the county general fund. HAND requested the funding again on October 7, but the Council declined to vote on the measure.

The project depends heavily on securing a federal low-income housing tax credit distributed by the state of Indiana. It does not offer a guarantee, but projects that are fully supported by the local community generally have a better chance.

HAND also needs to obtain rezoning approval from the Noblesville City Council before the project can move forward. The council has not yet voted on the request.

Several Metro Stations in DC Area Have Redundant Elevators

DC Metro elevatorsWheelchair users who ride Metro in the Washington, DC area sometimes find that an elevator is out of service and they have to take a shuttle to another station. However, many stations have redundant elevators so that the platforms are still accessible even if one elevator is out of service. Metro began installing redundant elevators in new stations around 2003.

At most stations, passengers who use wheelchairs need to use multiple elevators to go from the street to the mezzanine and from the mezzanine to the platform. If one of the elevators is out of service, Metro needs to run a shuttle to a nearby station. A handful of stations have elevators that run directly from the street to the platform. Some stations have more than one mezzanine but only one elevator.

Metro stations that have been constructed or renovated since 2003 have redundant elevators. A station with two entrances can have non-redundant elevators at both entrances, or a station with one entrance can have two elevators. The first station with redundant elevators was Friendship Heights. Forest Glen, Mount Vernon Square, King Street, Navy Yard, Largo, Morgan Boulevard, NoMa, and the five Silver Line stations are also redundant. Gallery Place and Rosslyn are partially redundant.

Several other stations will be undergoing renovations to make them redundant. A new entrance will be constructed soon at Medical Center. Montgomery County will start construction of a new elevator-only entrance in a few months. Arlington, Bethesda, and Silver Spring will also be getting new entrances in the near future.

Metro is planning to make Farragut North and Farragut West redundant with a pedestrian connection between the stations. Some other stations may also get new entrances in the future, but those projects are not currently in active planning.

Metro is also considering some additional projects that would make other stations redundant. Those projects have not been funded yet, so it is uncertain whether or not they will actually happen.

Alimak Hek Introduces New Tower Crane Operator Elevators and Hoists

Alimak Hek elevatorsAlimak Hek launched several new products recently, including two tower crane operator elevators, a medium-range construction hoist, and mastclimbing work platforms.

Alimak developed the internally-installed CabLift with Potain. It can be added to Potain K Mast tower systems 1.6 to 2.45 meters wide and pre-installed on new cranes. A platform at the top of the mast can help create tower sections and ensure that sections of elevator mast fit correctly. Since all of the components are contained within the mast, additional storage, transport, and assembly are not necessary. If power fails, the cabin can descend with gravity. There is also a ladder.

The CabLift’s normal speed is 24 meters per second, but that can be reduced to 12 meters per second. The cabin is accessible through the floor and the roof. It has a capacity of 200 kg, but that can be increased to 240 kg for erecting work.

The externally-mounted TCL has been used on many tower cranes. It does not require any mast modifications and has greater tie distances for reduced assembly times. The mast sections are made from galvanized steel, are 1,508 mm long, and weigh 48 kg. The mast sections have centering notches and captive bolts. The TCL’s capacity and lift speeds are similar to those of the CabLift. Doors can be located on the left or right. The maximum lift height is 90 meters, but that can be increased to 180 meters by mounting the drive motor in the middle instead of the bottom. The cabin is 1.2 meters by 630 mm.

There has been increased interest recently in tower crane elevators due to health and safety requirements in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark, where they are required on cranes more than 30 meters tall. France’s requirement will be reduced from 60 to 30 meters in 2017. Interest is also growing in other countries.

Alimak has introduced the 45/30 medium-range hoist that uses the Scando 450 mast, has similar performance, but costs 20 percent less. It can be used to transport passengers and materials, comes in single and dual car configurations, and has a capacity of up to 2,000 kg per car.

The hoist is available with a Direct on Line or Frequency Control motor system, high-efficiency helical gearbox, and microprocessor control system with stop-next-landing control. The Scando 45/30 has the same payload, load space, and lifting height as the Scando 450, but the speed is 42 instead of 54 meters per minute. The 450 has flexible car lengths and lightweight doors, but the 45/30 does not.

Alimak is almost done with a new range of mastclimbers. It hopes that the new mastclimbers will help it remain a market leader by offering the best technical specifications, prices, and performance. The first model will be the Hek MC 450, which will cost 30 to 35 percent less than the MCM range.

The MC 450 will be available in single or twin mast configurations. Platform lengths will range from 4.2 to 10.2 meters for single mast configurations and 8.4 to 30 meters for twin mast configurations. Platform widths are 1.2 and 2.2 meters for both configurations and have speeds of 8 and 9.6 meters per minute. The first tie position is at 3 meters. Tie distances range from 8 to 10 meters, and the maximum tied lift height is 200 meters.

The MC 450 should be available in December. Developments will be made in the coming months to the centrifugal brake, deck rotators, harness anchor points, anti-collision device, and a web tool to compare the time and cost required for a mast climber to those for scaffolding.

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