A safety expert’s tunnel boring machine

Engineering & Product designFront Page Display

Nov 13

Thierry is a civil engineer, who was looking for a 3D visualization solution for his underground safety projects. He built a whole tunnel boring machine and it’s surroundings from scratch, just to show his co-workers how he imagined the site.

Background on Thierry

I had my education in civil engineering – so as a natural transition – I work on calculating the realization of civil engineering works. More particularly, the realization of underground projects. On top of this, I am a member of a professional committee whose mission is to advise on hygiene, safety and working conditions of projects.

During my professional career, I noticed that a 3D graphics visualization on the corner of a sheet is more demonstrative than a big speech. I’ve started to experiment in the field. 15 years ago I did some graphic representation and even played around with animation, but nothing serious. I used Bryce 3D.

Designing a machine for visualization

Designing the tunnel boring machine in the beginning was more about curiosity, than sitting down with a plan.

As I was making progress in realizing a small utility, I noticed I was making more and more gambles. I couldn’t fight the urge to make the model a little more complicated every time.


My workflow always starts with the idea, which usually comes to me after spending hours reflecting on the problem. When the idea breaks, you just have to be prepared. A blank sheet of paper and a couple of pencils should do the job. The problems I’m working on often arise from a lack of clarity or a need for improvements in a technical document.

I need to show the problem and realization in a clear way or need to have the ability to easily point out the technical difficulties.

It all depends on the size/dimensions of the object. Looking at the example featured in this interview, I’d say it took hours of reflection and the same amount of time for realization. It is a complex model, with not just only the tunnel boring machine, but its secure environment also.

cad 3d tunnel safety visualization

What’s next?

Until now, the giants of CAD and DAO (Data Access Object) software were mostly developed for PC-based platforms. Luckily we see a shift in this regard towards tablets. Shapr3D is a pioneer in this movement.

Today, systems like AutoCAD are much too heavy and complex for a simple and fast use (and were mostly developed for PC-based platforms). They are also essential for the technical realizations dedicated to the production units. Your application is very interesting for its simplicity. It is well positioned to be an intermediate solution between the need of dimensional accuracy and a global general view of the subject.

As I see it – and I’m pretty much involved in the consultation industry – the building and civil engineering consultants need this kind of tool to effectively present their ideas.

Now that I have a realistic version of the model, I’d like to go and animate them.  Give the viewer an even better understanding of how my construct will work.

Before the app, I mainly created 2D technical illustrations with pen & paper, or in AutoCAD. What separates Shapr3D from other tools, is that it is intuitive and easy to use. Also it has most of the practical elements I need for my line of work.