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Smooth Operators: Part III The Evolution of Moving Elevator Doors

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, January 7, 2019 at 12:00:00 am

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Columbia Elevator’s patented (#7424935) ALURE® car operator and entrance system utilizes world-class technology to meet the demands of the most discriminating customer.

Columbia Elevator’s patented (#7424935) ALURE® car operator and entrance system utilizes world-class technology to meet the demands of the most discriminating customer.

Happy New Year to all our Lou’s Lessons Readers! It’s a new year and I am excited to continue the tradition of sharing information about the elevator industry with all of you.

With the next generation of intelligent door operators arrives the addition of a new term to the elevator operator lexicon: door and landing mechanism “modularity.” This allows economies and efficiencies to be optimized on a landing-by-landing basis, freeing the elevator system designer from needing to apply a single door/operator configuration to all landings of a building. Instead, the designer may now specify the appropriate door and landing mechanism for each landing’s unique requirements.

For example, consider a common application that would call for heavy-duty, more-durable door panels at the main egress floors that will bear the most traffic. Here the openings will use larger track and roller sizes for smooth and quiet operation, with an operator sufficiently robust to effectively drive such doors. In that same shaftway, there also might be entrances that open to a lower-level parking structure. Here, due to the aggregate demand of the upper floors, only a medium-duty service is needed to support that landing’s lesser traffic levels. Often such landings may be exposed to the elements, compelling the system designer to employ medium-weight door panes equipped with gasketing and corrosion-resistant track. To optimize floor-to-floor travel times, that same car door operator driving the egress floor openings must now adjust its torque to minimize door-closing times without exceeding code-mandated kinetic energy restrictions.

Additionally, because of the much lower traffic demands at the upper floor landings, light-weight doors of single-skin construction can be utilized with smaller-sized rollers and/or hanger assemblies to enable faster door closings and minimized floor-to-floor travel times. To address such varying exposures, these ‘intelligent’ car-door operators automatically adjust their performance to move the vastly different masses at each floor in a way that minimizes the door-close cycle without violating limits specified by code. For this ‘mix-and-match’ technology to properly function, the interface between the landing mechanisms and the car door operator is located in precisely the same location at each landing, regardless of the door type and door equipment deployed. This need for such mechanical flexibility at each floor defines the concept of modularity.

To conclude my focus on ‘smooth operators’ and how elevator technology forges ahead unabated, in 2019 it is less about allaying safety concerns than it is about vastly improving the experience of the people who design and build the elevators and improving the experience for the public that rides them. The intricacies of ‘flexibility’ and ‘modularity’ are not directly visible to the public, but riders do appreciate when elevator cars run more smoothly, quietly, and arrive more quickly at their floor when called.

Among designers, our friends the installers of the elevators, and the owners/managers of the buildings that house them, these concepts are recognized and welcomed!

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Smooth Operators: Part II Digital & Electronic Impact on Moving Elevator Doors

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Thursday, December 20, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Holiday Party at Columbia Elevator

Happy Holidays from the Columbia Elevator Products Team!

Today, as we approach the third decade of the twenty-first century, electronic and digital solutions are supplanting the mechanical methodologies on which all mechanical operations have previously relied. The changes impact the vehicles we drive, the buildings in which we live and work, and virtually all the products and services we consume in residential and business life. As such, it was natural that this shift would find its way into the elevator sector, which has profited from the massive introduction of electronics into the field.

A case in point is the introduction of digitally-enabled elevator door drives that are bringing the elevator field into the paradigm now commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). By use of a digital communication protocol and interface in the door drive’s electronic board, it has become possible to create a bidirectional communication protocol that reports all operating parameters of the elevator door, the feedback on each operation cycle, and enables easy interaction with the system’s operating parameters.

Thermal Monitoring

Real-time data displayed on an AR tablet can be used to optimize equipment performance and maintenance, detect and proactively correct causes for future failures, and train technicians.

This opens an entirely new dimension in elevator maintenance and performance monitoring. A technician using a tablet can connect wirelessly to the operator, adjust operating parameters, and obtain feedback in real time from the device screen, all without installing any extra equipment or requiring physical access to the door drive at the top of the car. This allows for easy access to operating data of all door components, the monitoring of their life-cycles, failures incurred during operation, their endurance and behaviors in various operating conditions, and all while remote data collection from each installed elevator can be managed in the Cloud. Real-time access to such data creates the ability to optimize maintenance and intervention activities, and to detect possible future failures and address them before they shut down the elevator.

Improved door electronics can also offer a viable interface to Augmented Reality (AR) service applications. By wearing head-mounted displays, service technicians can receive diagnostic instructions, complete with what procedures to apply and tools to use. This can in turn be an ideal tool for training staff and act as a best-practice guide to follow, particularly when working on more obscure, complex, or high-value elevator systems. And since troubleshooting can be one of the most time-consuming tasks for technicians, current and future AR applications may help to further reduce maintenance downtimes and related costs.

These changes are a bonus to the smooth operation of doors and the safety of the elevator technician.  

I wish everyone a Happy Holiday! May you be enjoying some time with family and friends, and I’ll see you again in the new year. 

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Smooth Operators: Part I - Harmonic or Linear: The Evolution of Moving Elevator Doors

Louis "LJ" Blaiotta, Jr. on Monday, December 10, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

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Typical Harmonic door operator arrangement

Typical Linear door operator arrangement

It is often said that when one door closes, another opens, and so it goes with elevator door operators. As decades-old methodologies fade into obsolescence, today’s cutting-edge technologies are opening new views into the design, installation, functionality, and maintenance of the equipment that governs the movement of elevator doors.

The old-standby – dating back to the beginning of automatic operators and still in service today – has been the harmonic operator. In addition to the oft-noted issues concerning their weight and the space they consume atop cabs, harmonic operators are possessed of several inhibiting factors. They are comprised of many mechanical parts, slow-moving, and low in mechanical efficiency with a high operating noise level.

The performance of harmonic operators can be inconsistent from floor to floor. Their DC motors with open-loop or Variable Voltage, Variable Frequency (VVVF) control are inefficient, offer no protection against voltage fluctuations, and are more vulnerable to operational failure. Another major issue we find with harmonic operator technology is that installation is a difficult, time-consuming, trial-and-error process.

Conversely, linear door operators are based on a simpler, more compact mechanical design. These perform with much higher efficiency, and, since they require no lubrication, provide the advantage of lower maintenance. The door drive is managed by a dedicated electronic board, which makes adjustment and fine-tuning much easier, with self-learning operating parameters set by a dedicated control pad. The power supply is managed by a switching device, in the range of 90 to 290V, that protects the operator from voltage fluctuations and helps avoid resulting problems.

I’ll go into more depth about electronic and digital function that make for improved and smooth operation of the operators next time.

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