Numerical simulation of epb shield tunnelling with tbm operational condition control using coupled DEM–FDM

Hyobum Lee, Hangseok Choi, Soon Wook Choi, Soo Ho Chang, Tae Ho Kang, Chulho Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


This study demonstrates a three-dimensional numerical simulation of earth pressure balance (EPB) shield tunnelling using a coupled discrete element method (DEM) and a finite difference method (FDM). The analysis adopted the actual size of a spoke-type EPB shield tunnel boring machine (TBM) consisting of a cutter head with cutting tools, working chamber, screw conveyor, and shield. For the coupled model to reproduce the in situ ground condition, the ground formation was generated partially using the DEM (for the limited domain influenced by excavation), with the rest of the domain being composed of FDM grids. In the DEM domain, contact parameters of particles were calibrated via a series of large-scale triaxial test analyses. The model simulated tunnelling as the TBM operational conditions were controlled. The penetration rate and the rotational speed of the screw conveyor were automatically adjusted as the TBM advanced to prevent the generation of excessive or insufficient torque, thrust force, or chamber pressure. Accordingly, these parameters were maintained consistently around their set operational ranges during excavation. The simulation results show that the proposed numerical model based on DEM–FDM coupling could reasonably simulate EPB driving while considering the TBM operational conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2551
JournalApplied Sciences (Switzerland)
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar 2


  • Coupled numerical analysis
  • Discrete element method
  • Earth pressure balance shield
  • Finite difference method
  • Operational condition
  • Tunnel boring machine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Instrumentation
  • Engineering(all)
  • Process Chemistry and Technology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Fluid Flow and Transfer Processes


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