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Inspiration Versus Perspiration

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Invention has often been consigned to filling a great need, the combination of desperation and perspiration. I like to think of invention, instead, as that creative spark that comes from what George Strakosch called “blue-skying” — not just filling a need, but a brilliant leap that takes us into the future.

This month we join our focus topic, Technical and Engineering Innovations, with our Project of the Year (PoY) winners, since both involve heavy doses of inspiration. In the focus-topic articles, we start with our historian Dr. Lee Gray’s article, An Innovative Elevator System, Part One. Gray explores the original Otis passenger elevator of the early 1870s. The patent — the one everybody talks about — was actually filed in 1861, but the company filed another 17 patents between then and 1873 that were assigned to various family members. Moving forward 156 years, we have an excellent paper by six Hitachi engineers, Ultra-High-Speed Elevator with a Speed of 1,200 mpm. This article follows the development of Hitachi’s large-capacity and ultra-high-speed elevator for the Asian market and the Middle East. They highlight how passenger comfort was achieved through a 70% reduction in vibration. Next, we focus on Plastics Are Fantastic by Thomas Decker. Faigle of Austria produces moisture and impact resistant, highly durable rollers used in more than half of all the escalators in the world. How? By utilizing a product that sounds like “baby talk” — PAS® PU-H — but is a serious product we can’t live without. Tony Heiser follows with High-Power Elevator Drives, a discussion on the high peak current requirements for elevators based on acceleration and deceleration rates. My personal favorite is Let There Be Light, written by our Kaija Wilkinson. It is about a German company, started in 2016, UVIS UV – Innovative Solutions, which invented an escalator handrail sanitizer with ultraviolet (UV) rays. Originally tried only in transit stations, the products are now in malls, combined with a safety-awareness campaign. Who wouldn’t prefer to hold on to a nice, clean handrail?

Our PoY winners literally span the globe this year. We have winners from Australia, South Korea, San Francisco, the North Sea, Denver, Mexico and Utah. Each presented a unique challenge. The PoY winner in Elevators, New Construction is Schindler Lifts Australia with the Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia. This 23-unit installation is the only hospital in Australia with destination control. The PORT system allows exclusive use and priority recalls in patient areas. For Elevators, Modernization, the winner judged most challenging was the Metropolis Trust Building in San Francisco. The challenge was 100-year-old equipment with basement gearless and roping from car to counterweight not even in the same hoistway. Star Elevator, Inc. answered with a clean modern overhead traction variable-frequency-controlled AC gearless system. Then, we are off to South Korea for the PoY winner for Inclined Elevators, Jwacheon-Dong Inclined Elevator. The second-largest city in the country is Busan, a mountainous region with difficult uphill commutes. Achim Hütter Consulting designed two inclined elevators as part of an urban-regeneration project. These elevators now carry 3,500 passengers a day. The winner for Special-Purpose Lifts is Maersk Oil Rig Lift in the North Sea. DOPPLER designed the first lift to be added to an existing rig. It was made of high-grade structural steel with many unique requirements due to the harsh environment. Custom Cabs Inc. designed the Private Residence Elevator winner, Round Glass Elevator, in Salt Lake County, Utah. The 360˚ panoramic glass elevator system has unusual hall doors with under–platform operators.  The lift gives the impression it is floating in the hoistway. The winner of the PoY for Platform Lifts and Stairway Chairlifts is Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City. The outdoor lift by Savaria provides access to the MetLife offices. It required a unique supporting structure and connecting metal bridge. By far one of the most challenging projects was that by KONE at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Escalators, Modernization PoY winner. It is also on our cover, where you can see that the technicians had to work around some very large skeletons. KONE retained the existing trusses and installed four EcoMod escalators. Because the museum never closed, they had to keep two escalators running at all times to handle traffic flow. Indeed, they became part of the exhibition, as many children and parents stopped and asked the installers questions about the units.

Some of these projects were beset by large hurdles to overcome, but as my favorite futurist, Elon Musk of Tesla Motors, says, “If something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favor.” And so, we do it with inspiration and perspiration.

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