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hyperTunnel reveals robot- constructed underground structure

hyperTunnel, a UK-based technology company, has revealed the world’s first entirely robot-constructed underground structure.

The latest technologies and advancements in the building construction industry such as Artificial Intelligence and robotics are currently the talk of the town. Implementation of such technologies facilitates accuracy and quicker construction, saving time, money and other resources. With a fast-paced construction process, the incorporation of robotics technology in construction facilitates construction professionals greater outcomes and reduced human errors.  Though the construction industry is highly unautomated, several different robots are already on the market for assisting construction professionals. In regard to this, hyperTunnel, a UK-based technology company, has revealed the world’s first entirely robot-constructed underground structure, built at its R&D facility in the North Hampshire Downs, UK. 

The method used for construction of underground structure;

The underground structure was built at hyperTunnel’s R&D facility in the North Hampshire Downs using  the swarm construction method.  The new automated construction method is designed to build tunnels more than 10 times faster and at half the cost of conventional techniques

  • A  fleet of ‘hyperBot’ robots entered the ground via an arch of plastic pipes
  • This method uses a digital twin of the tunnel to deploy a fleet of ‘hyperBot’ robots underground via an arch of HDPE pipes
  • Once inside, the robots 3D-print the tunnel shell and install construction material directly into the ground

The six metre-long, two metre-high and two metre-wide Peak XV ‘pedestrian-scale’ tunnel has been delivered as part of a project for Network Rail.

David Castlo, Network Technical Head (Mining and Tunnels) at Network Rail, said: “Our large portfolio of Victorian tunnels requires increasing levels of work to meet the needs of the railway network. 

The hyperTunnel process has been used as part of a Network Rail project which involved investigating the technologies that are key to low-disruption tunnel repairs for the UK’s regional railway infrastructure.

“‘This process is designed to build tunnels more than 10 times faster and at half the cost of conventional methods. As it removes the need for human workers to enter the structure during construction, hyperTunnel could also significantly improve safety for the tunnelling industry’’, said Steve Jordan, Co-CEO and Co-founder of hyperTunnel. 

As part of this project, the first 6 metre-long and 2 metre-high and wide Peak XV pedestrian-scale tunnel was revealed at the British Tunnelling Society Conference & Exhibition.

Using swarm construction methods according to a digital twin of the tunnel, a fleet of ‘hyperBot’ robots enters the ground via an arch of HDPE pipes

“Our large portfolio of Victorian tunnels requires increasing levels of work to meet the needs of the railway network. However, we want to reduce the level of disruption to our passengers so we are constantly searching for new approaches to enlarging or repairing tunnels that reduce the length of time a tunnel will be closed to trains. Peak XV moves us a step closer to that goal and, crucially, with a method that reduces workforce safety risk”, David Castlo, Network Technical Head (Mining and Tunnels) at Network Rail, said.

“While using robots exclusively to build underground structures is dramatically different, the contributing technologies, such as digital twins, robotics, 3D printing and digital underground surveying, supported by AI and VR, are all well-proven in other industries. In fact, the hyperTunnel in-situ method is all about de-risking construction projects”, Steve Jordan, co-CEO and co-Founder of hyperTunnel, said.

At the beginning of the year hyperTunnel received funding of 1.88 million Euros from the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator scheme, Europe’s flagship innovation programme in addition to receiving a financial investment from Vinci.

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