Big Toys - Cranes and Tunnel Boring Machines

This week in the Product Design Show Vince and Allison explore design issues in constructing heavy equipment. Most large machines like tunnel borers and cranes begin with a "standard" design that is then customized for a specific project or purpose.


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Designing Cranes and Tunnel Boring Machines

Today in our show, Designing the Big Toys - Excavators, cranes and monster-sized tunnel-boring equipment. What do you do when the crane you ordered isn't the crane you need? Sometimes on a construction site you find out the crane has to go higher or lift more than planned. That can lead to changes in the ballast load, which in turn means rein­forcing the steel structure with new sheet metal components. For those kinds of changes, the designers have to take the lead. That can take a long time with history-based CAD systems that force you to navigate through the soft­ware's history tree to modify the design.

Engineers in Europe have been working to unite the north and south with two 35 mile long tunnels that connect more than a mile beneath the peak of the Swiss Alps. Currently 1.2 million trucks travel over the mountains each year. This project aims to move those goods to trains traveling through the tunnel. To drill this tunnel, engineers at Herrenknecht helped to design and build a massive tunnel boring machine. There are 90,000 individual parts with extremely heavy components that took 7 months to assemble. On October 15th, 2010, the tunnel boring machines completed the project by breaking through to connect one end of the tunnel to the other. 11 years of construction. 13 million cubic meters of rock.

Designers being designers, we can't resist LEGO. But, why play with actual Legos when you can simulate the experience using computers? Jacques-Michel Hache created this 3D model simulation of a LEGO backhoe, made with around 650 pieces. This dedication to computer-aided design could save his companies dozens of pennies in plastic Lego bricks and countless play-date schedule delays.