A hard rock tunnel boring machine (TBM), which uses 3D printing to form the tunnel lining behind while drilling, has been presented by Swiss engineers, led by ETH Zurich, for a tunneling award.
In the previous weekend at the international tunneling innovation contest organized by Elon Musk and held in Las Vegas, United States, the Groundhog Alpha concept was singled out by Swissloop Tunneling.
Although the German team was Victor of the Not-A-Boring Competition, the Swissloop Tunneling team secured the Innovation and Design Award for the 7m long, 2.5t TBM prototype. The main subject that took the attention of judges, was the use of a rapid hardening special polymer mix to 3D print the tunnel lining, while Groundhog Alpha excavated an 18m long tunnel during the course of the competition, which has been put it in the second place.
The project team said: “The 3D printing concept is designed to overcome the challenges around logistics when it comes to transporting precast concrete linings onto the site and through the tunnel to the TBM as it progresses. The design also allows the TBM to bore continuously without pausing to allow lining segment installation to be undertaken.”
“This award validates our approach of taking the sometimes difficult but purposely innovative path,” stated Stefan Kaspar, Swissloop Tunneling founder and presenter.
Excavating tunnels with 4m length, in the size of the tunnels in the Hyperloop concept, is the future plan of the team by further developing the technology of the machine.