Archives: History

Onsite First Time Assembly, 25 Times Over

Robbins developed Onsite First Time Assembly (OFTA), a way of building TBMs on location, in 2006. The method has been shown to save months on the delivery schedule and millions in USD. By 2017, OFTA had been used to build every type of TBM Robbins offers, on 25 projects worldwide.

Next Generation Hybrid: The Crossover TBM

In 2015, the breakthrough of Robbins’ first Crossover TBM took place at Australia’s Grosvenor Coal Mine. The latest generation hybrid machine, made to cross between geologies that would normally require multiple TBMs, excavated variable ground 14 times faster than a roadheader.  Since that initial project, dozens of Crossover machines have been used worldwide.

The First Continuous Conveyor Behind a TBM

In 1963, the world’s largest TBM at the time, an 11.20 m diameter Robbins Main Beam, was built for the Mangla Dam Project.  The unique project used a coal mine conveyor developed by James Robbins and Goodman, rather than muck cars, in the industry’s first-documented use of continuous conveyors for TBM tunneling. Muck was removed continuously from five TBM tunnels bored at the remote jobsite, making the prototype a great success.

The Precursor to all EPB and Slurry TBMs

In 1964 Robbins developed the first compressed air tunneling machine to successfully excavate a 2.9 km long tunnel below the water table in Paris, France. The design served as the genesis for the EPB and Slurry TBMs we know today.

The First Modern Tunnel Boring Machine

In 1952 James Robbins developed the first modern Tunnel Boring Machine for the Oahe Dam Project in South Dakota, USA. The machine used drag bits and dumbbell-shaped cutters to successfully excavate weak shale rock.

World's Largest Hard Rock TBM

Contractor Strabag AG took a unique approach to construction for the Niagara power project when they elected to use a Main Beam TBM to excavate the 14.4 m diameter tunnel. Strabag had previous experience with Robbins HP-TBM™ technology from the Second Manapouri Tailrace Project in New Zealand. For Niagara, Strabag again elected to go with a Robbins HP-TBM™, this one being the world’s largest hard rock TBM. The machine was the first ever to be fitted with back-loading 20″ cutters, and was assembled onsite in Robbins’ first instance of Onsite First Time Assembly (OFTA).

Advent of the Small Boring Unit

The contractor, Fithian, was attempting to excavate a 36″ tunnel in rock with an auger boring machine using a carbide bit “Christmas tree” head. The head wasn’t cutting the rock and the contractor turned to Robbins for a solution. The Small Boring Unit (SBU) was invented for the job, and Fithian completed the tunnel in just one week with this new method.

A Project of Firsts

Robbins introduced HP-TBM™, also known as the High-Performance TBM, for the Norwegian contractor Statkraft Anlegge when a project called for very difficult geology to be bored. The three HP-TBMs employed had substantially higher capacity main bearings, more cutterhead power, and more cutterhead thrust than any other hard rock TBMs of that size at the time (3 to 5 m in diameter). To withstand all of this additional thrust and power, Robbins developed the new high-capacity 19″ cutter with wedge-lock mounting system.

Excavating Rock Under 10 Bar Water Pressure

Robbins was the principal supplier of TBM technology for this project. They developed a new, hybrid-type machine concept to successfully manage the 10-bar water pressure anticipated in the worst sections of the tunnel. The project had been a dream for over 100 years, and was finally accomplished through a close collaboration between equipment manufacturers and the international consortium of contractors.

One of the Largest TBM Projects

In possibly the largest clean water environmental project of the twentieth century, the TARP project called for massive tunnel construction over the course of twenty years. The city’s bold concept called for the largest hard rock TBMs yet to be manufactured (10 m in diameter). Robbins delivered 20 TBMs over the course of the project.