Making A Door That Opens Both Ways

How many times have you walked into the wrong side of the door? How many times have you been momentarily confused as to whether or not you push or pull that obscure door handle which isn’t so obvious in its intended use?

What if you never had to worry about doors again? What if we could have an omni-directional door? [TVMiller] couldn’t find any examples of this, so he decided to build his own prototype. He calls it the Any Way Door.

The Any Way Door is just a 1:12 scale version, but as you can see in the following video, it works pretty well — and if anything would make for a very cool door that interior designers / architectures would love.

The question is, can it be done at full size effectively?

[TVMiller] would love to find out, but does not have the time or resources to build a full scale model, so he’s invited the Hackaday audience to give it a shot. He’s posted the project on Hackaday.io and welcomes anyone to join and contribute.

What do you guys think? Is it possible? Is it viable? Or do we deserve it when we walk into poorly designed doors?

67 thoughts on “Making A Door That Opens Both Ways

      1. Unless those magnets are used to secure locking pins. Which can only be moved by activated electromagnets. And are connected via linkages similar to old-school train signals that ensure both sides can’t be physically opened at once.

    1. over 50 years ago my childhood home had a door like that between the kitchen and the dining room, so you could carry things from one to the other without needing hands to open the door.

      It was a massive oak beast and it would swing back and forth like a saloon door when someone walked through it. I got smacked in the head by the damn thing once and still have the scar on my forehead. Five or six stitches as I recall.

    2. I think you may need to watch the video again. It’s not a hinge that you can push or pull, but rather that you can push (or pull) on either the left and the right side of the door and it will still open…

      1. Yes and it’s an overly gimmicky rube-goldbergish ‘technology for technology’s sake’ solution to a problem that’s been solved since there were saloons in the old west…and probably before.

        This doesn’t actually solve a problem so much as complicate things.two-way hinges are stable, well-understood, and don’t require power.

        It reminds me of some of the designs people dreamed up making ‘Star Trek’ doors work before they asked Matt Jeffries how the heck he did that so quickly and smoothly!

        “Someone off camera yanked the door out of the way”

  1. Doors that open both ways are not a new thing. I am surprised he’s never come across one. My school had them in every corridor, restaurants sometimes have them into the kitchen, the bars in old cowboy movies…

    1. You are referring to swinging doors, which are not sealed on one side so it can swing both ways on the same hinge. What the article shows is a sealed door that can change the hinge point from left to right.

      It’s a neat concept but it’s entirely over engineered. Nobody really needs a door that does this. If they truly do, they have bigger problems to take care of first.

  2. It’s a cool idea. If the hinge door is held by electromagnets it may become dangerous in case there is a power cut. A solution to this may be use normal magnets to hold the hinge and when the hinge needs to be released to open the door create a opposite magnetic field with a electromagnet to neutralise the magnet field. Maybe a hall sensor can be used to regulate the current in the electromagnet until the field is close to zero. Another option is to pull away the magnet from the side that needs to be opened with an mechanism driven by an electric motor.

        1. Automatic doors are easily opened manually… safety issue if a grocery store full of shoppers catches fire and loses power and everyone gets trapped inside.

          Fire code is funny like that- function over convenience and all.

      1. Then have an Electromagnet on one side that is Normally ON and a Permanent Magnet on the other that is deactivated by an electromagnet.

        Power failure = normal door… unless it was open when the power went out and resting on the electromagnet side, in which case, Broken door…

  3. Or use a proper hinge – with a retractable pin, and determine which side of door to pull hinge out of by pressure on the other side…. Use fixed magnets just to realign the door when its closed so pins can be reinserted…

    1. That was actually my first design. Pins from top and bottom that withdrew. This model above was done to demonstrate the magnets you see on door locks which would be put on a pivot…only I didn’t.

    1. The microcontroller detects whether you are left or right-handed, whether the total number of openings so far have been left-hinged or right hinged, adds a bias based upon recent sun-spot activity and then divides by zero (three times, just to be sure); the door opens. You get a custard pie full in the face.

      1. The wave function never actually collapses – thats a typical old fashioned ‘particles are real things’ misunderstanding of what’s happening.
        If you keep your eyes closed.the door is neither open nor closed so you can just walk through it with your arms out – by the time you realise you haven’t felt the door yet and open your eyes – you’re on the other side :)

      1. Oohh, that got me thinking, too. Hmm… square plastic door, refrigerator gaskets (with magnets in them) on all 4 sides. It sticks to a metal door frame. Push on either side, top, or bottom hard enough, and the magnets on that side let go. It then peels the magnets loose on the adjoining sides, and hinges open on the remaining magnetically connected side. :-) It could work for a small pet door.

  4. “Doors manufactured by the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation are programmed to love their simple lives; they love nothing more than to open and close for passing users, and thank them profusely for so emphatically validating their existence.”

    1. “It is very easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of [their products] by the sense of achievement you get from getting them to work at all. In other words – and this is the rock solid principle on which the whole of the Corporation’s Galaxy-wide success is founded – their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws.”

      -So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish.

    2. “`Share and Enjoy’ is the company motto of the hugely successful Sirius Cybernetics Corporation Complaints division, which now covers the major land masses of three medium sized planets and is the only part of the Corporation to have shown a consistent profit in recent years.”

      The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

  5. For those worrying about power outages with the electromagnetic design…At this juncture adding two more pivot points (top & bottom pins for hinges added to the door on both sides) that are held “up & down” by the same magnetic source thus allowing for the door open on either side as shown, but when the power goes out, the magnets shut down, pins for the hinges are no longer held up (or pulled down) and so they “fall into place” allowing for the door to be opened – but on a specific side.

    Only thing you have to do is label the door properly for “emergency purposes.”

    1. I graciously applaud you sir. I looked and looked for a month trying to find an example of a door like that and you found it. You validated my thought that, how the h could this not already exist some where. Thank you!

  6. No magnets….use pins and have a surface on both sides that has a handle that when depressed releases the pins on the side of the handle, but interlocks the pins on the opposite side. Push or pull depends on which way the force is applied. This would eliminate the microcontroller, the power requirement, and prevent the “pushing on the center” idea.

  7. I first saw a door that did this in 1969 (46 years ago!) in the Auckland University Student Union Coffee shop (in New Zealand). That was done purely mechanically.I remember playing with it at length at the time and establishing how it worked – but I do not now recall in detail how it worked. I think that pressing on one side lifted restraints which allowed mul;ti-point hinges to unlock and slide apart, while locking the mechanism on the other side so you did not get the obvious catastrophe. The door was a half height one between the behind the counter space and the customer space and allowed staff to pass in and out while serving using either side of the door in either direction.
    I’ve not seen another door functionallyt like it until now.

    Russell McMahon. New Zealand.

  8. I first saw a door that did this in 1969 (46 years ago!) in the Auckland University Student Union Coffee shop (in New Zealand). That was done purely mechanically.I remember playing with it at length at the time and establishing how it worked – but I do not now recall in detail how it worked. I think that pressing on one side lifted restraints which allowed mul;ti-point hinges to unlock and slide apart, while locking the mechanism on the other side so you did not get the obvious catastrophe. The door was a half height one between the behind the counter space and the customer space and allowed staff to pass in and out while serving using either side of the door in either direction.
    I’ve not seen another door functionallyt like it until now.

    Russell McMahon. New Zealand.

    Admin: Double posted with an email notification request the 2nd timme. Please delete the first post.

    1. Indeed, I saw doors like this in the 1970’s when in college. Being an engineering student, I had to look and see how it worked. :-) It was very simple mechanically. Basically, it had a metal door frame with hinges on one side. Inside that frame was a door, with hinges on the *other* side. Thus, the door could hinge open from the left — or the door plus frame could hinge open from the right. There was a slide bar that locked the hinges so it could only swing one way at a time. Clever!

  9. As Donald Norman explained at length in his popular book, The Design of Everyday Things[1], the “need” for (glass or transparent) doors that open on either hinge is a design flaw most commonly created by architects whom lack experience or are willing to make poor designs decisions in an attempt to create multi-door entryways that are aesthetically appealing (through minimalism, such as no visible door handles or bars).

    Such “either hinge” doors should be transparent because such design does not handle the case of two people each trying to use a different hinge point, as well as the increased risk of being stuck from either (swinging) side.

    While I applaud [TVMiller] for his ingenuity, but in my opinion I’m afraid that it is a case of an overly complex solution to simple problem of architects not correctly including the minimal visual cues necessary to make it easy to detect the “interface” and operate such as array of glass doors.

    1] http://www.jnd.org/books/design-of-everyday-things-revised.html

  10. This reminds me of “Ford’s Magic Tailgate” from their early 1970’s station wagons. It would open down like a tailgate if you pulled on th middle handle, and opened like a door if you pulled on the side handle. I never had the chance to see one up close and figure out how it worked.

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