Prof Jack Levy’s conveyance, dubbed the Levytator, can be designed into any shape, so architects can incorporate escalators in a continuous loop that follow curves rather than travel in straight lines. Potential sites for use include hotels, airports, museums and theme parks.
‘I’m a Londoner and I’ve been travelling on escalators all my life,’ said Levy, an Emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at City University London. ‘It occurred to me: ’Why are they all straight? Why can’t we go around corners on them?’ and I took it from there.’
Powered by what Levy described as a ‘fairly conventional powertrain’, the new design moves a continuous loop of curved steps, which can follow any path upwards, flatten and straighten, and descend again with passengers onboard.
This marks a departure from traditional escalator design where redundant steps move underneath those in use.
‘There are two issues here: it is a terrible waste of steps and maintenance is a nightmare,’ said Levy. ‘The Levytator is designed so that all the maintenance can be done from the top, so it is very much easier. Also, because it’s in a loop, the cost per useable step is much less than in a conventional escalator – you get twice the steps for your money.’
The Levytator’s handrail will move in the same way as those on conventional escalators.
‘The fact that it’s curved will not be a problem; Mitsubishi already uses a curved handrail so it’ll come from the market’ said Levy.
Levy conceded that the device’s curved movement may limit the radius of curvature but this presents an issue of consumer acceptance rather than a significant engineering challenge.
The Levytator has been granted patents in the UK, Europe, China and the US, and Levy is looking for an industrial partner who is prepared to back the production of a full-scale prototype.