Swarms of mini robots could dig tunnels of the future
For decades, engineers seeking to build tunnels underground have relied on huge tube-like machines armed with a frightening array of cutting wheels at one end—blades that eat dirt for breakfast. These behemoths, called tunnel-boring machines, or TBMs, are expensive and often custom-built for each project, as were the TBMs used to excavate a path for London’s recently opened Elizabeth Line railway. The machines deployed on that project weighed over 1,000 tons each and cut tunnels over 7 meters in diameter beneath the UK capital.
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