Elevator design hasn't progressed very much during the past 160 years, and still comprises cabins which move vertically in a shaft supported by cables. This is inefficient and limiting, taking up a relatively large footprint and requiring people to wait a long time for the next lift. However, German conglomerate ThyssenKrupp has unveiled a revolutionary Willy Wonka-style elevator concept that allows several cabins to move both horizontally and vertically in the same elevator shaft, at the same time.

Dubbed Multi, ThyssenKrupp's elevator concept is cited by the firm as the world's first cable-free elevator. We're not sure about this, as electromagnetic specialist MagneMotion may have got there first. Still, ThyssenKrupp's system looks far more involved than simply doing away with cables, and it poses potential implications for the future design of tall buildings.

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The Multi is propelled by a magnet-based drive that uses the same technology behind Shanghai's super-fast Maglev train, which was built by Transrapid International, a joint venture of Siemens and ThyssenKrupp. Each elevator will feature one motor for horizontal and vertical movement, and rather than a single shaft, a skyscraper featuring the Multi would sport a complex system of shafts that could offer passengers access to an elevator every 15 to 30 seconds.

ThyssenKrupp says that because the Multi requires smaller shafts than typical elevators, it could increase a building's usable area by up to 25 percent. It's lighter too, and the use of lightweight materials for cabins and doors slims the Multi down to around 50 percent of a typical elevator's weight. The firm says that a 300 m (984 ft)-tall building would be the ideal starting height for the technology.

The Multi is still in development, and ThyssenKrupp expects to test the system in 2016.

The video below shows the Multi concept in further detail.

Source: ThyssenKrupp