Tunnel 4.0 - digital twin is the future 04 Jun 2020

Roland Herr, TunnelTalk

The use of digital tools during the entire process of tunnel construction, from the idea, through the planning and design stages, into construction and commissioning, and also during future operation, maintenance and expansion or reconstruction, was the focus of a webinar organized by Amberg Engineering and Amberg Technologies, Elkuch and Siemens, the four founding companies of the Swiss Tunnel Digitalization Center. Joined by SCAUT, the The Swiss Center of Applied Underground Technologies, and the Swiss company HBI, the Digital Tunnel 4.0 webinar included presentations on BIM, 3D point cloud or airborne mapping, digital control and training processes, and the use of mega-data cloud information centers to create the digital twin for modern infrastructure development.

Digitalization from idea to real infrastructures and services
Digitalization from idea to real infrastructures and services

Digitalization of existing infrastructure is created using mobile mapping scanning systems. Once created it is possible to add the planned structures. With such digital processes, the time-consuming processes for changes, new design or planning ideas, and different simulations are things of the past. “It is possible to be on site at the click of a mouse,” said Alzbeta Prokopova, Product Manager of Amberg Technologies, in her presentation.

Advantages of modelling geology
Advantages of modelling geology

An example of how to use BIM was illustrated for the design of tunnel door systems. “In the past, developing and manufacturing special designed door systems without using the digital twin was very time and money consuming,” said Jannick Dürst, Business Development Elkuch Group. "Design of prototypes up to prefabricated wall elements can be built and then checked in the Hagerbach test gallery using BIM and doors, lighting and ventilation systems are easier to design and install. During construction, about 80% of installation time can be saved. In operation, all important data can be checked via sensors making maintenance times not only shorter but easier to plan.”

Digital control assists the commissioning and training of complex operating systems. “This begins with the computer hardware being validated and checked virtually and before the go-live sequence,” explained Thomas Kühnrich, Marketing Manager Digital Tunnel and Automation of Siemens. “All components, including controllers and control systems, are checked with basic function tests.”

Use of digital twins for tunnel door systems
Use of digital twins for tunnel door systems

Virtual advanced controller code tests can also be completed for the ventilation systems using the behaviour model from HBI. In real test scenarios in the event of fire or evacuation, the automation hardware can be proven under realistic circumstances. Also, operator training is offered on a very early stage with the digital twin and the tunnel control software WinCC OA. The benefits are

  • reduced commissioning time,
  • reduced costs for fire tests,
  • operator training and
  • faster tunnel openings.

By using a central model the user gets comprehensive digital documentation of the existing and the planned tunnel. The 3D presentation of the structure enables simple and intuitive acquisition of infrastructure information and all data is linked via standardized interfaces. Automatic or semi-automatic edge detection for model making is possible.

View a recording of the webinar presentations

To build-up a Retro-BIM model, typical information needed includes photos, clearance profiles, convergence measures, surveying data, inspection data, geology and groundwater analysis. All this data from different disciplines, other BIM models and also sensor information, must be connected to the digital twin to receive a complete overview of all information and data on one screen. Static and dynamic real-time information can also be integrated, and it is helpful to have an inspection cloud system. This cloud-based system works with Amberg GRP/IMS 5000 and third-party data. Digital tunnel inspections, which periodically compare data, allows a classification of the entire infrastructure. The application works offline, uses artificial intelligence for a semi-automatic phenomena detection and is open for third-party cloud applications.

The advantages of digital twins for operation are :

  • cost-savings with shorter or no blocking periods for just-in-time intervention
  • trouble-free operation of the tunnel
  • rapid problem-oriented data retrieval
  • transparency and facilitated communication
  • visualization of static and dynamic information and
  • the digital twin can be used as a basis for other specific models.


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