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A Brief History of the Elevator

March 29, 2019

As a company that specializes in custom sheet metal fabrication for the manufacturing of elevators and escalators, we have a strong appreciation for the innovations and technological advancements that have made the modern elevator possible. In recognition of the efforts made to revolutionize the vertical transportation within buildings, here is a brief history of the elevator.


The Beginning of the Elevator

The first elevators, which were called hoists, were made and used in the Middle Ages. They were mostly likely used for the transportation of food and other goods to different levels of a building structure. These hoists were operated manually by humans, by animals or through water-driven mechanisms.


The modern elevator was invented in the 1800s, and was powered by steam or hydraulic plungers. The early elevator was used for transporting materials in factories, warehouses and mines. The need for greater control of the elevator cab’s movement was resolved with a system that consisted of lever controls and pilot valves.


The first traction elevator was invented in the United Kingdom in the 19th century; the movement of this elevator was controlled using a rope and pulley system. Then, in the mid-1800s, the first power elevator came on to the scene in the US. It functioned as a freight hoist that operated between two floors—a far cry from the elevators produced through custom sheet metal fabrication today.


The Otis Legacy

Elisha Graves Otis made further progress in the evolution of the elevator when he introduced a safety mechanism to break an elevator cab’s fall in 1853. Following his success, Elisha’s sons founded Otis Brothers and Company in Yonkers, New York; this was the beginning of mass production of elevators. The Otis Elevator Factory remains the world’s largest manufacturer of vertical transport systems.


The Advent of Motor Technology

The electric motor was first incorporated into elevator technology by German inventor Werner von Siemens. In 1889, the direct-connected geared electric elevator came to be thanks to advances in motor technology. This elevator design transitioned to that of a gearless traction electric elevator by 1903, which facilitated the construction of buildings more than a hundred stories high.


Since then, electromagnetic technology replaced the rope, multi-speed motors replaced the single-speed motor, push-buttons controls were integrated into elevator design and custom sheet metal fabrication has become a commonly-used manufacturing method. Today, push-buttons are giving way to keypads and microchips are allowing for the mass-management of elevators.


At Demtra Sheet Metal Industries, we specialize in custom sheet metal fabrication, as well as welding, modifications, repairs and stainless steel fabrication. We don’t perform mass production at our facility as we aim to provide fully customized parts and products. Contact us today for quality sheet metal fabrication, and excellent service to match!