World’s first underground structure built by robots
By Catrin Jones21 October 2022
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 company’s new automated construction method is said to be designed to build tunnels more than ten times faster and at half the cost of conventional methods.
The approach is said to be significantly friendlier to the environment through the use of sustainable materials such as low-carbon concrete.
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 says HyperTunnel.
Once inside, the robots 3D-print the tunnel shell by deploying construction material directly into the ground.
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.
Steve Jordan, co-CEO and co-Founder of HyperTunnel, said, “To unveil our first large-scale demonstration tunnel is a big step, not only for HyperTunnel, but for the tunnelling and construction industries which are eagerly anticipating the readiness of our approach to use, as appropriate, in their global projects.
“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.”
Earlier this year, HyperTunnel received funding of €1.88 million from the European Innovation Council (EIC) Accelerator scheme, Europe’s flagship innovation programme, in addition to receiving a financial investment from Vinci.