In this news release, the European Space Agency (ESA) tells us how the "expertise derived from working on the joint NASA-ESA Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and its moon Titan is now being applied to underground drilling machines."
This is providing tunnelling engineers with an improved ability to virtually 'see' some 40 metres into solid rock and pinpoint obstacles ahead
With modern high-speed tunnelling, sudden geological shifts may damage the cutting head of drilling machines and lead to expensive delays in multi-million Euro excavation projects.
German tunnelling company Herrenknecht AG -- famous for drilling the Elbe tunnel in Hamburg using the world's single largest tunnelling machine -- has developed a new method of charting what lies ahead beyond the tunnel face.
Here is a photograph of the Herrenknecht Trude, the world's biggest tunnel drilling machine.
Back in 1999, Herrenknecht engineers were using seismic processing to estimate what was behind the tunnel face, but they had problems with the transmitters positioned onto the drilling machine's rotary shear blades, especially because of extreme stress.
This is why they asked for help to MST Aerospace, the ESA's Technology Transfer broker in Germany. MST organized a meeting with Astro- und Feinwerktechnik Adlershof GmbH.
This firm has developed specialist electro-mechanical hardware for several space mission payloads, most notably ESA's Cosmic Dust Analyser for the Cassini spacecraft currently on its way to Saturn along with Huygens, ESA's Titan lander.
In the process the firm also has acquired extensive experience of testing components for space by simulating extreme conditions, in particular using vibration actuators. In autumn 2001, Herrenknecht AG awarded Astro- und Feinwerktechnik Adlershof GmbH the contract to develop a transmitter prototype. It was delivered the following year and swiftly judged a success.
These new seismic probing transmitters have been successfully tested on a 9.8m-diameter TBM shield excavating the 1,600m-long Pannerdensch Kanaal twin tunnel near Arnhem, part of the Netherlands’ new 160km Betuweroute freight railway line. The transmitters are also due to be installed on two further TBMs for an excavation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Source: European Space Agency, July 18, 2003
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