TBM | International

A Tradition of Innovation: The Next Push for Machine Tunneling

This paper is an abridged version of the talk written and presented by Dick Robbins, president and CEO of The Robbins Company from 1958 to 1993. The 2013 Sir Alan Muir Wood Lecture was given as the keynote lecture at the ITA-AITES World Tunnel Congress in Geneva, Switzerland in May of this year. This lecture is reprinted with the permission of the International Tunnelling Association (ITA).


As a relatively mature industry, the world of machine tunneling is more conservative than it once was. While there is a place for standardized machinery and design elements on many projects, some projects require ingenuity and a progressive approach. Challenging and risky projects will always be a part of our industry and stepping out of the comfort zone of standardized techno-logy on these tunnels is part of achieving success. The effect of industry-wide conservatism is often the outcome of an effort to drive down risk, whether that is through contractual practices, industry...

Related articles:

Issue 02/2015

Marathon Machines

From abrasive rock to fault zones to water inflows, geologic challenges become more common as tunnel lengths increase. In rock tunnels over 15 km long, a host of challenges may meet a TBM, requiring a...

Issue 05/2021 Mexico

Rectangular Rock Mining Machine for Flat Invert

Employed by Mexico’s oldest silver mine, Fresnillo Plc, the MDM5000 is boring a mine access tunnel in andesite and shale with quartz intrusions that has defied earlier attempts using roadheaders. The...

Issue 06/2019

Norway: Compact Hydro Tunnelling Offers Renewable Energy Solutions

A Haven for Hydropower Norway’s hydropower production capacity of 140 TWh covers more than 94% of the total electricity usage in the country. The vast majority of powerplants, however, were built...

Issue 07/2010 Machine tunneling with minimal cover

The Finne Tunnel under the Schnecktal valley

1 Introduction Despite the high present-day level of automation and mechanization, mechanized tunneling begins to encounter its limitations in shield-machine operations with no active rockface...

Issue 08/2014 Compendium

Tunnelling Manual 2015

Tunnelling is numbered among the most interesting and complex tasks for structural engineers. It calls for theoretical knowledge and practical experience in geology, geotechnics, statics, massive...