tunnel boring machine

Australia’s first use of autonomous tunnel boring machines (TBM) will help build two nine kilometre twin tunnels for the Sydney Metro West project.

This work is part of the $2.16 billion Western Tunnelling Package awarded in February to the Gamuda Australia and Laing O’Rourke Consortium, which contracted world-leading manufacturer Herrenknecht to design, build and deliver the machines.

These two mega machines will utilise innovative artificial intelligence software, developed by Gamuda, to automatically steer, operate and monitor a number of TBM functions.

While an operator remains in control, the autonomous system takes on all repetitive tasks from the operator with greater accuracy. The technology also allows the TBMs to be more accurate and precise, reducing the time required to excavate the nine-kilometre tunnels, therefore saving project costs.

While these machines look the same as others used on Sydney Metro projects, this technology means exact tunnelling speed and force is used. This lessens the impact on the equipment which reduces the amount of down-time for maintenance.

The autonomous machines will join a fleet of TBMs that will build 24km tunnels from the Sydney CBD to Parramatta, with two TBMs scheduled to start tunnelling from the Bays to Sydney Olympic Park at the end of 2022.

The two autonomous tunnel boring machines are expected to be in the ground by the end of 2023 to deliver the metro rail tunnels from Sydney Olympic Park to Westmead.

Each autonomous machine is 1,266 tonne, 165m long, and designed to excavate through sandstone and shale.

They will tunnel an average of 200m per week with a team of 15 workers per shift.

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