Vacuum lifter as part of the TBM

Aerolift developed a vacuum handling solution for inside the tunnel boring machine (TBM). The solution consists of two vacuum lifters per TBM. Both vacuum lifters are able to handle both tunnel segments and keystones. In total we shipped 12 vacuum lifters to China for 6 TBM’s. The TBM’s are meant for a metro tunnel project in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Vacuum technology inside the TBM

The first vacuum lifter picks up the tunnel segments from transport and brings the segments to the erector. During handling the segments are rotated 90 degrees to meet the erector’s position. This rotating function is integrated in the vacuum lifter.

The second vacuum lifter is connected to the erector and is able to turn 360 degrees, in order to place the tunnel segments in any required position. This is possible because the vacuum unit is placed in a static position in the TBM. The vacuum lifter picks up the tunnel segment and places the segment in the tunnel wall in the required position. Every tunnel segment is fixed manually with bolts. In order to gain access to the bolt holes of the keystones, the suction pad in the middle is able to retract and extend.

Both vacuum lifters are provided with a keystone recognition. This is a safety provision to prevent human mistakes. The system ensures the entire suction pad is active when lifting a normal size segment (no keystone).

Situation inside the TBM

In the previous situation the tunnel segments in the TBM were picked up mechanically, but the safety was insufficient. The customer was looking for a safer alternative.

To develop a good solution we needed to take several aspects into consideration. Inside the TBM there is only limited space and it is a very dirty environment. Despite the wear and tear, the devices should last many years with limited maintenance. Also the great forces of the TBM itself should be taken into account. The situation in the TBM demands a compact and robust vacuum lifter with many positioning options. The vacuum lifter operate as part of the TBM and match the size and control system. A great challenge which we accomplished!

About the customer

The customer, China Railway Engineering Equipment Co. Ltd. (CREG), is the leading tunnelling machine manufacturer in China and a supply arm of the major Chinese group CREC (China Rail Engineering Corporation), one of the largest, state-owned companies in China.

All the vacuum lifters of Aerolift are developed for a specific situation. Curious what vacuum technology can do for you? Please contact our team and ask for the possibilities.