The escalator has travelled either up or down and in a straight line for more than a century that it has been in use. But a revolutionary new design being hailed as the future of escalator travel is set to change all that.
The Levytator, named after its inventor Jack Levy, professor of mechanical engineering at the City University in London, is the world's first escalator capable of following free-form curves.
“I wondered why the escalators had to be straight,” he told The Independent. It is already being nicknamed the ‘Sushi-lator’ because of its curved modules, which resemble the conveyor belts used to deliver food in trendy Japanese restaurants.
These curved steps allow it to twist, bend and snake around corners in a continuous loop, all with passengers on board. All of which means architects can create escalators in any shape they want, whether as a conveyor belt around a department store, a ride around a theme park or, more simply, placed on top of an existing staircase.
The inspiration for the free-form escalator’s design came to Levy while travelling around the London Underground. The traditional escalator works by turning the steps upside down and looping them underneath the staircase to take them back to the start. Half the steps are therefore hidden away and never ‘in use’.
The Levytator, on the other hand, has one single loop, making it a cheaper proposition because fewer steps are required. This works because when they reach the top, the steps disappear under the floor and then reappear for the downward journey. The design also means repairs can be carried out from above, avoiding the weeks it currently takes to fix faulty escalators. Levy’s design has already been patented in Britain, Europe, the US and China and Levytators could be cropping up in public buildings by mid-2012.