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The capsules
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The capsulesThe capsules of the EDF Energy London Eye featured an entirely new design for observation wheels. Ordinarily, 'gondolas' are suspended from the rim, keeping upright through gravity (as with the original Ferris design). However, for the first time in wheel construction, the London Eye's capsules are not suspended.

Rather, they are fixed to the outside of the main frame, giving a unique and spectacular uninterrupted 360-degree panorama at the top.

Every part of each capsule had to be specially designed. Each of the egg-shaped capsules is held in place by two huge ring-bearings, within which it is driven mechanically. A French cable-car firm built a test rig that was used to simulate the effects of turning and passenger movement. The aim was to minimise the potential for uncomfortable swaying if everyone inside the capsule moved at the same time.

The pen-end shape of the steel framework, with its tight curves and precise shape, was particularly difficult to manufacture. Similarly, the double-curved glass needed to be stronger and have greater curvature than ever achieved before -the Italian manufacturers invented a new moulding system especially for the task. Each panel was made up of two sheets of glass, formed in special steel moulds, then laminated together with a sticky resin interlayer between. The panels were then attached to the capsules using both silicone sealant and mechanical fixings.

'We tried all kinds of specialist designers and manufacturers - for tube trains, taxis, monorail...' - David Marks, Marks Barfield Architects

Each capsule has two completely independent electronic operating systems, one to turn the capsule and the other to run the heating and ventilation system. Each one is also fitted with security cameras, lighting, two-way radio, speakers in the ceiling, and back-up batteries under the floor.

Under certain wind conditions, the top of the rim could sway up to 2-3 metres from side-to-side. Although this would still be safe for the guests, it would put stress on the metal joints. To eliminate this, 64 mass spring dampers are incorporated into the rim structure. These reduce the side-to-side sway to a barely perceptible 150mm, making for an exceptionally smooth and comfortable ride.

The capsules were the very last of the EDF Energy London Eye's major components to arrive, timed to reach the site when the wheel was already upright. Designed to be just within the maximum width load allowed on French roads, they were wrapped and loaded onto flatbed trailers and driven from Grenoble to Zeebrugge, then shipped to a holding point at Dartford until the wheel was in position. Finally, they were brought by boat up the River Thames and fixed onto the wheel. All 32 capsules were fitted in record time over the course of eight days.

The capsules

A computer-generated illustration reveals a long section of the capsule. The stability system and heating and ventilation system can be seen below the floor.

The capsules

An exploded view illustrates the positioning of all 36 different glass panels required for each capsule. All of the glass panels are double-curved.

The capsules The capsules

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