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How an Elevator Works

Chances are you have ridden in an elevator many times over the course of your life. Maybe you even ride in one every day to get to your office or to your apartment! This is something that you probably do automatically and don’t give a second thought to. That is – unless you have ever been inside of a malfunctioning elevator. If this is the case, you might pay more attention to how these machines work and what could potentially go wrong. On this page, I will discuss the inner workings of the elevator to give you a little more information about these commonly used machines. If you have been injured in an elevator, understanding how it works and why it malfunctioned can help you with a personal injury claim.

Basic Functionality

The basic concept behind the elevator is very simple. It is a compartment attached to a system designed to lift that compartment. Attaching a box to a piece of rope and pulling it is a basic form of an “elevator”.

Obviously modern advancements in machinery, engineering, and industrialization have allowed for more complex and intricate ways to improve on this design. But the basic idea of the elevator has been around for centuries.

The modern elevator uses detailed mechanical systems to control the elevator and support the weight of the car as well as its cargo. There are also important control mechanisms that allow passengers to use the elevator, including ways to open and close the car doors, move the car to different floors in a building, and communicate with someone if there is a malfunction. Finally, there are significant safety controls related to the modern elevator to prevent malfunctions and other tragedies.

Types of Elevators

There are two main types of elevators that are currently used: roped elevators and hydraulic elevators. The roped elevator system is the more popular design of the two. In this type of elevator, the car moves thanks to traction steel ropes. These ropes attach to the elevator car and then attach to something called a sheave. The sheave is then connected to the electric motor, which allows it to move up or down, depending on how the motor is turned.

Included in a roped elevator is a counterweight, which works to balance the weight of the elevator car. The system essentially works like a seesaw, balancing weight evenly. The roped elevator system is preferred to the hydraulic one because it is more efficient and it has more safety systems in place. This generally makes it the safer option of the two.

However, hydraulic elevators are still used. This system uses a hydraulic ram to raise and lower the elevator car. It consists of three parts – the valve, the pump, and the tank. These work in unison to push pistons and allow the elevator to move up and down. Hydraulic elevators are preferred in some situations because of their simplicity. But, as mentioned above, they tend to be less efficient than the roped system.

I discuss these options in greater detail on this page. If you have additional questions about the structure of elevators and how they work, you can contact my office for more details.