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Tunnel boring machines are highly complex systems. Their operation is permanently monitored during runtime both by safety programs and by the machine operator. Similar to the dashboard in a car, the machine operator also has an insight into the individual units and subsystems of the tunnel boring machine via a visual dashboard. The dashboard shows parameters such as the tunneling speed, the speed of the cutting head, the temperatures, the position of the machine, the pressures of the hydraulics, and a view of the installed water circuit, which is used to transport the excavated material, and the bentonite supply, which serves, among other things, as a lubricant for the machine in the borehole.
The aim of the "DigITSimulator" project is to virtualize this tunnel drive for training purposes. The simulator is intended to provide a prospective machine operator with a safe training environment with a realistic interface and machine behavior that is as close to reality as possible. Other aspects include a rudimentary configuration of the geology and route planning. In this way, unforeseen borderline cases such as faults and load peaks can be virtually predefined, reproduced and safely trained. For this purpose, a digital image of the machine in the ground is created and used for simulation in the ground. The resulting digital twin is connected to the control system (PLC) and the used control program of a tunnel boring machine via the OPCUA communication protocol. The PLC is supplied with all input data from the simulation running in real time with the digital twin, as if a real machine were present and drilling in the ground. Inputs include sensor data (pressures, speeds, laser distance measurements, temperatures) and actuator data (valve positions, power settings, cylinder positions, pump outputs).
Also connected to the PLC is a real physical control panel, which can be operated in the same way as the real machine and corresponds to the configuration used on the construction sites for tunnel boring. It is also possible to use a digital control panel, e.g. via a touch tablet.