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Drilling for the breakthrough

Elon Musk has launched an international drilling competition – and two German teams are in the final. A look at a spectacular project.

Johannes Göbel, 23.05.2021
Project manager Haokun Zheng with the TUM Boring machine
Project manager Haokun Zheng with the TUM Boring machine © Andreas Heddergott/TUM

Visionary Elon Musk has launched a new international competition: after the spectacular duels for the fastest Hyperloop vehicle, it's now all about a special drill. The two are linked. The new Not-a-Boring Competition is looking for solutions for building tunnels that could also benefit the Hyperloop system. The aim of the competition, the finals of which are scheduled for the summer of 2021 in the USA, is to bore a 30-meter-long tunnel half a meter in diameter – and to be faster than an auger, because augers are currently still over ten times faster than tunnel-boring machines. Twelve teams have been selected from almost 400 applications worldwide. Two German teams are also among the 'Digging Dozen'. We present them here.

TUM Boring – Innovation in Tunnelling

Most of the TUM Boring team are studying at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), series winner in Elon Musk's international Hyperloop competition. But students of the Munich University of Applied Sciences, the LMU Munich and the FU Berlin are also among the 60 team members from 16 countries. The first drilling attempt with a prototype took place in a project manager's garden. In the meantime, industrial partners are providing special parts and a production site.

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The Dirt-Torpedo from the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University

At first, the development of the Dirt-Torpedo was exclusively virtual. However, the computer simulations were so convincing that the students at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) qualified for the final of the Not-a-Boring Competition. Since then, the core team of ten students has been driving the project forward with enormous commitment. Manager Adrian Fleck summarizes the structure of the drill to the press: "In front is the drill, which also sucks in the earth material. Behind it is a moving part that can contract and expand much like a worm. The real innovation is the last part: with this, the machine builds a concrete tunnel by itself."


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