New concept of tunnel boring machine: high performance using water jet and diamond wire as rock cutting technology

Abstract Tunnel boring machines are important tools in underground infrastructure projects. Although being well established equipment, these machinesare based on designsof more than 60 years ago and are characterized by big dimensions, enormous weight and high power consumption. Commercial aspects should be noted too. The model adopted by the TBM industry requires constant replacement of cutter discs and specific labor skills, usually offered by the same manufacturingcompany. In some cases the cost of replacement parts and technical assistance can be higher than the acquisition cost of an entire machine. These aspects are no longer compatible with the concept of sustainability that is an important aspect of currentsociety. While the technical characteristics require a large quantity of steel and several inputs, the adoptedmodel is not competitive. One alternative is looking for new technologies that break the old paradigms and allow the development of high performance concepts with lower social and environmental impact. This studydealswith this opportunity by proposing a high performance tunnel boring machine that makes use of high power water jet and diamond wire to compose a double shield cutter head. It works in two stages. In the fristone, an annular cut is executed by hydrodemolition,and in the second one, the diamond wire station slices the rock core. Only with the action of diamond wire is the rock core separated from the rock mass and the removal process is finished. A smart water jet nozzle movement system is described and non circular tunnels can be executed. The new technologies involved requirea different type of backup system, lighter and smaller. The non-existence of mechanical contact between the equipment and the rock mass at theexcavation front allows low power consumption. The advanced rate and primary excavation cost analyses can also be encountered herein. It shows that it is possible to reach an advanced rate of 174 m/day in soft and porous rock and 0.64 m/day in hard and non porousrock, whereas the NTNU method indicates only 55m/day and 13m/day underrespective conditions. On the other hand, the excavation cost is high for both conditions. One option is to use sand as an abrasive in the water jet process, reducing by half the primary excavation cost. It is reasonable to say that the proposed concept can be considered as an alternative for tunnels in soft rock and high porosity, and needs better performance of the water jet system to become an alternative for hard rock.