A safety expert’s tunnel boring machine

Engineering & Product designFront Page Display

Nov 13

Thierry is a civil engineer, who was looking for a solution to easily visualize his ideas for 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.

Thierry is a civil engineer, who was looking for a solution to easily visualize his ideas for 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. We’ve been wanting to showcase his work for quite some time now, and we finally tracked him down to ask some questions and show you his work.

Background info

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? (Education, Occupation)

I had my education in civil engineering – so as a natural transition – I work on calculating the realization of civil engineering works, and 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.

How did you start your career?

Like many of the technicians in my field, with the easiest and most rewarding shapes. I began with the most simple sketches and I gradually evolved into being able to create complex models, like the one featured in here.

What is your design philosophy?

Modeling the cleanest and most intuitive way possible.

What experience do you have in 3D modeling and/or using CAD systems?

I wouldn’t say real modeling but I noticed that a 3D graphic representation on the corner of a sheet is more demonstrative than a big speech, so I 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. I remember I created a small aerodrome with a tower and two tracks for a flying club. A small plane was making landing runs by taking off, flying a little bit and landing. Unfortunately, I cannot share these earlier designs, with the time and the change of material, I no longer have the files.

How and why did you start working on your project?

In the beginning, it 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 as I couldn’t fight the urge to make the model a little more complicated every time.

How does your work process look like?

It 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.

How often do you have to look at 3D models/plans?

My works require me reading and looking at plans all the time and I’ve been using AutoCAD sporadically. And of course, Bryce, as I mentioned earlier.

How do you see the use of CAD tools today in the industry?

Today, systems like AutoCAD are much too heavy and complex for a simple and fast use, but they are essential for the technical realizations dedicated to the production units. Your application is very interesting for its simplicity and it can 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.


Why was it so hard to find the right tool?

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 and Shapr3D is a pionner in this movement.

How long does it usually take to create an object?

It all depends on the size/dimensions of the object. Looking at the example featured in this interview, I’d say it took several hours of reflection and around 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

Where do you usually work?

It varies, either in the office or at home.

What tools does your team use?

They use all sort of CAD tools for PC. Before Shapr3D I mainly created 2D technical illustrations on paper, or in AutoCAD.

How do you add Shapr3D to your workflow?

Currently, the use of Shapr3D is a personal initiative, something that makes my days easier.

How did your design flow change and how did Shapr3D help?

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.

Experience with Shapr3D

Do you have any future plans with the software?

I don’t have a specific project in mind, ideas usually come the most unexpected places. You just have to look for the opportunities.

How did you first hear about Shapr3D?

Nothing remarkable. I had a great interest in modeling on my iPad Pro, so I just typed in 3D modeling in the Appstore and there it was.

What tools and functions do you want to see in the application?

There are three things I’d like to see:

  • First, I’d really like to have a PDF-export option, with possibilities to comment, adding annotations.
  • Second, a one-button solution for creating a sphere, with the option to easily modify the different variants and the position.

Experience with the iPad Pro

How long have you been using the iPad Pro and why did you choose a tablet to do your modeling?

If I remember it correctly, there was not much time between the release and the time of purchase. I truly believe that tablet is today, what pen & paper was in the past. A clean and easy way to think and design.

What do you think about the iPad Pro? Is this a good alternative to a laptop?

This is the future and even though it is a relatively inexpensive investment, its reliability is almost on the same level as PCs or other computers.

What are your favorite iPad apps?

I like the office tools it comes with, like MS Words and the photo functionality.

What is your advice to someone just starting out?

Always start simple. Create some free-hand sketches and slowly progress to more difficult forms by adding more and more simple sketches/shapes to your workspace. After you are finished, take the finishing steps by assembly and scaling.

What is the next step for you?

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