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The next revolution in lift technology awaits us. CEDES is getting in on the act too. But even if the Graubünden company gets everything right, nobody will talk about it.
Have you ever thought about lifts with any great interest? Probably not. For most people, they exist solely for the purpose of doing exactly two things: going up and going down – and attracting as little attention to themselves as possible in the process. To ensure they can fulfil this purpose, companies such as CEDES devote themselves to details that nobody else has to think about. In Landquart in the canton of Graubünden, surrounded by a mountain panorama and alpine air, more than 200 employees undertake “mammoth efforts” to achieve this, explains Chief Engineer Marcial Lendi.
For five years, Marcial and his team have been working on the development of their flagship product, iDiscovery. “iDiscovery monitors safety-relevant components like motors and brakes to make sure they do not make any mistakes,” explains Marcial. After all, dealing with lifts is a lot like dealing with people: the more communication takes place, the more misunderstandings there are. One single button in a lift cabin features multiple wiring these days. And even if lifts can’t technically fall any more, “there’s always a chance that it won’t do what it’s supposed to.”
Lift technology as we know it today dates back to May 1854. According to legend, at a precursor to today’s expo, pioneer of lift technology Elisha Graves Otis allowed himself to be lifted to the ceiling in an elevator designed for lifting goods at the suggestion of a showman. Once he was sure he had the full attention of the audience, he pulled out a sword and cut the supporting ropes. The lift plummeted towards the floor, but stopped falling after just a few centimetres. The stopping brake developed by Otis worked. Just three years later, the first passenger lift was commissioned, and high buildings were suddenly a possibility.
“The end customer sees maybe 20 per cent of the work that goes into a lift.”
Perhaps in future, we will even see lifts that are not attached by any cords. In Rottweil in Germany, Thyssenkrupp has been experimenting with cabins that are driven magnetically on parallel rails – not just up and down, but sideways too. This would mean that several cabins could be in operation at the same time, overtaking one another, preventing congestion and opening up new spaces. “That might sound crazy,” says Marcial, “but you have to start somewhere.” Elisha Graves Otis would surely agree.
The sum of details.
A picture of Otis hangs in a conference room at CEDES. Marcial himself wears a T-shirt with “The Sensor Pioneers” printed on it. Very apt, even if the notion of revolution has become less dramatic these days. In a technologically advanced world, it is the sum of details that makes revolutions possible. It’s about fork light barriers, sensors and competing with China.
With iDiscovery, Marcial and CEDES are optimising lift technology as far as is still possible in this fiercely competitive high-tech market. From a manufacturer’s point of view, he is creating technology that will remain attractive in terms of price while maintaining at least the same level of quality. From the user’s point of view, he is creating technology that makes moving from one floor to another even more convenient. From a mechanic’s point of view, he is creating technology that will make assembly and maintenance even safer despite ever-increasing time pressure. This is where the majority of accidents happen – after all: “Even experienced technicians get things wrong from time to time.”
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Despite its down-to-earth Graubünden attitude, CEDES is involved in some great visions for the future. In fact, the Rottweil magnetic lift prototypes are operational thanks to CEDES. “At the moment, we are the only company that manufactures safe sensors that work contactlessly,” says Marcial. Friction is non-existent, as is wear. But as revolutions have come and gone, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed: “The end customer sees maybe 20 per cent of the work that goes into a lift.”
Remember that the next time you press one button with multiple wiring to go up or down a few floors.