The Krokodyl Robot working in a TBM

Onboard robot will assist tunnelling machines of high-speed line HS2

An onboard robot will be used to help improve safety and efficiency on the UK’s high-speed line HS2 project. According to the project organisation of HS2, the robot will assist two 2,000 tonne TBMs (tunnel boring machines) that are due to be launched in early 2021. The Align joint venture, the main works contractor, is a pioneer in the use and development of the Krokodyle robot. 

Both TBMs are 170 meters long and are specifically designed to work with the mix of chalk and flint that will be found under the Chilterns. HS2 predicts that the tunnelling machines are expected to take around three years to dig 9.1 metres diameter tunnels. These tunnels will be lined with a concrete ring made of seven separate segments. The tunnelling machines will convert the spoil into slurry. The slurry will then be pumped back to the Align main site. This mixture will be treated before being used for landscaping on-site.

The Robot

According to Align, the Krokodyl robot is one of the first of its kind and will be installed in the two TBMs that will dig 16 kilometre long Chiltern tunnels. It will carry out simple repetitive tasks by using robotic arms like removing wooden spacers between tunnel segments and insert connection dowels.

Eight tonnes segments will be delivered to the TBM with wooden spacers between them, a task usually done by hand. With full automation, the Krokodyl removes the potentially hazardous work from people and will help install 112,000 tunnel segments. The tunnel segments are erected as the TBM moves forwards while creating a structural watertight ring to support the ground loads. The dowels will then be placed into position ready for the segments to be slotted into place by Dobydo, a second feature of the Krokodyl robot.

“Safety is a key value that is shared by everyone working on HS2, including the client, Align itself and our supply chain partners. A lot of work has been undertaken by all concerned that has enabled us to develop and introduce this robot, thereby reducing the risk to our personnel, operating in our state of the art TBMs. We are very proud of these innovations which we would be happy to share with tunnelling teams working on other projects across the world, to help reduce the likelihood of accidents and injuries,” says Didier Jacques, Align’s Underground Construction Director.

A video of the Krokodyl robot in action:

Author: Sarah Chebaro

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