Supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51475163), National Hi-tech Research and Development Program of China (863 Program, Grant No. 2012AA041803).
Attempts to minimize energy consumption of a tunnel boring machine disc cutter during the process of fragmentation have largely focused on optimizing disc-cutter spacing, as determined by the minimum specific energy required for fragmentation; however, indentation tests showed that rock deforms plastically beneath the cutters. Equations for thrust were developed for both the traditional, popularly employed disc cutter and anew design based on three-dimensional theory. The respective energy consumption for penetration, rolling, and side-slip fragmentations were obtained. A change in disc-cutter fragmentation angles resulted in a change in the nature of the interaction between the cutter and rock, which lowered the specific energy of fragmentation. During actual field excavations to the same penetration length, the combined energy consumption for fragmentation using the newly designed cutters was 15% lower than that when using the traditional design. This paper presents a theory for energy saving in tunnel boring machines. Investigation results showed that the disc cutters designed using this theory were more durable than traditional designs, and effectively lowered the energy consumption.