How an Elevator Works – A Modern Understanding

The technology that powers today’s modern elevator is astounding. It’s so simple yet so complex! These machines have no doubt come very far from their primitive beginnings in the 1800’s when the Industrial Revolution took over the country. The use of iron and steel to construct buildings, as well as the components inside them, took the industry to new heights. As more and more skyscrapers began to dot the landscape, a new technology was needed to get passengers from one floor to another easily and quickly.

How Elevators Work

That’s where braking systems made their debut. There had to be a way to stop and start in order to safely and efficiently transport freight and people up and down multiple stories. Previously, lift systems operated via a series of ropes and pulleys. However, now buildings needed something that could hold the weight of the people and packages those units were transporting. Enter the world of control mechanisms and safety devices. These are what divided the primitive and the modern.

Breaking Down the Technology

Elevators work via a pulley-esque system whereby a metal rope connects to the top of the elevator car that travels through a “sheave” in the engine room, according to Discovery. Thus, the sheave acts as a pulley wheel featuring grooves to hold onto the metal rope (also known as a cable) securely. There’s a weight on the other end of the rope that equals the weight of an elevator car half full, lending balance to the unit. This expends less energy.

What holds the weight and the car in place? That credit goes to the guide rails, which are located on the sides of the elevator shaft. The shaft is the tunnel through which the cars operate up and down. A signal is given to the motor, which tells the wheel to go up or down, with the weight going in the opposite direction. Every time someone pushes that button out in the lobby or in the car itself, the motor is activated. When the motor stops, grooves force the pulley wheels to stop as well.

Of course, this is a watered-down version of how an elevator works. There are much more complex safety components at play, but you get the idea. Anytime you add an elevator to your building, you should research the latest in safety advances. Ongoing maintenance is also critical to the safe operation of your elevator. We can help.

Mowrey Elevators has been a leader in elevator installation and repair across the Southeast since 1976. We have designed, manufactured and installed more than 15,000 elevators for all types of commercial buildings and private residences. Contact us today at 800-441-4449 to learn more about what we do.