Penetration behaviour of TBM disc cutter assisted by vertical precutting free surfaces at various depths and confining pressures


The ability to improve rock-breaking efficiency of tunnel boring machines in hard rock stratum is significant to improve driving speed and reduce construction cost and time. The undercutting method has been used to improve the rock-breaking efficiency of disc cutters, including the design of curved and multistage cutterheads. The limited radian of curved cutterheads and the number of multistage cutterheads, however, are restricted by the current manufacturing level. We explored mechanical response and rock-breaking efficiency assisted by water jet kerfs as the vertical free surface. We conducted a quasi-static penetration test of the disc cutter considering four kerf depths and three groups of confining pressures. We analysed the surface crack propagation and fractures inside the sample using acoustic emission and computed tomography scanning. We studied the influence of confining pressure and cutting depth of the water jet on penetration force, rock chips, and specific energy. We analysed the failure evolution and stress field of kerf specimens using numerical simulation. The results showed that increasing cutting depth relieved restraint stress and the resulting influence of the confining pressure on removed rock volumes and specific energy was not remarkable. We recommended a kerf depth of greater than 18 mm to reduce penetration force and significantly improve rock-breaking efficiency.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

(modified from Geng et al. [12]), and d TBM combined with high-pressure water jet system and penetration with series of concentric vertical free surface

Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 9
Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12
Fig. 13
Fig. 14
Fig. 15
Fig. 16
Fig. 17
Fig. 18
Fig. 19
Fig. 20


  1. 1.

    Xia YM, Guo B, Cong GQ, Zhang XH, Zeng GY. Numerical simulation of rock fragmentation induced by a single TBM disc cutter close to a side free surface. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci. 2017;91:40–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Gong QM, Yin LJ, Wu SY, Zhao J, Ting Y. Rock burst and slabbing failure and its influence on TBM excavation at headrace tunnels in Jinping II hydropower station. Eng Geol. 2012;124:98–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Yin LJ, Gong QM, Zhao J. Study on rock mass boreability by TBM penetration test under different in situ stress conditions. Tunn Undergr Space Technol. 2014;43:413–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Villeneuve MC. Hard rock tunnel boring machine penetration test as an indicator of chipping process efficiency. J Rock Mech Geotech Eng. 2017;9:611–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Shahriar K, Sharifzadeh M, Hamidi JK. Geotechnical risk assessment based approach for rock TBM selection in difficult ground conditions. Tunn Undergr Space Technol. 2008;23:318–25.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Zheng YL, Zhang QB, Zhao J. Effect of microwave treatment on thermal and ultrasonic properties of gabbro. Appl Therm Eng. 2017;127:359–69.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Li MY, Han B, Zhang Q, Zhang SY, He QK. Investigation on rock breaking for sandstone with high power density laser beam. Optik. 2019;180:635–47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Ren FS, Fang TC, Cheng XZ. Study on rock damage and failure depth under particle water-jet coupling impact. Int J Impact Eng. 2020;139:103504.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Zhu XH, Luo YX, Liu WJ. On the rock-breaking mechanism of plasma channel drilling technology. J Petrol Sci Eng. 2020;194:107356.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Huang M, Hu Y, Wang XC, Kang Y, Cai C. Experimental investigation on the flow and rock breaking characteristics of supercritical carbon dioxide jets. J Petrol Sci Eng. 2020;187:106735.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Li CP, Duan LC, Wu LJ, Tan SC, Zheng J, Chikhotkin V. Experimental and numerical analyses of electro-pulse rock-breaking drilling. J Nat Gas Sci Eng. 2020;77:103263.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Geng Q, Wei ZY, Meng H, Macias FJ, Bruland A. Free-face-assisted rock breaking method based on the multi-stage tunnel boring machine (TBM) cutterhead. Rock Mech Rock Eng. 2016;49(11):4459–72.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Zhang XH, Xia YM, Tan Q, Wu D. Comparison study on the rock cutting characteristics of disc cutter under free-face-assisted and conventional cutting methods. KSCE J Civ Eng. 2018;4:1–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Zhang XH, Xia YM, Zeng GY, Tan Q, Guo B. Numerical and experimental investigation of rock breaking method under free surface by TBM disc cutter. J Cent South Univ. 2018;25:2107–18.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

  16. 16.

    Ma HS, Gong QM, Wang J, Yin LJ, Zhao XB. Study on the influence of confining stress on TBM performance in granite rock by linear cutting test. Tunn Undergr Space Technol. 2016;57:145–50.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Pan YC, Liu QS, Liu JP, Liu Q, Kong XX. Full-scale linear cutting tests in Chongqing Sandstone to study the influence of confining stress on rock cutting efficiency by TBM disc cutter. Tunn Undergr Space Technol. 2018;80:197–210.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Liu J, Chen Y, Wan W, Wang J, Fan X. The influence of bedding plane orientation on rock breakages in biaxial states. Theor Appl Fract Mech. 2018;95:186–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Li XF, Li HB, Liu YQ, Zhou QC, Xia X. Numerical simulation of rock fragmentation mechanisms subject to wedge penetration for TBMs. Tunn Undergr Space Technol. 2016;53:96–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Liu QS, Pan YC, Liu JP, Kong XX, Shi K. Comparison and discussion on fragmentation behavior of soft rock in multi-penetration tests by a single TBM disc cutter. Tunn Undergr Space Technol. 2016;57:151–61.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Leite MH, Ferland F. Determination of unconfined compressive strength and Young’s modulus of porous materials by penetration tests. Eng Geol. 2001;59(3):267–80.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Zhang XP, Ji PQ, Liu QS, Liu Q, Zhang Q, Peng ZH. Physical and numerical studies of rock fragmentation subject to wedge cutter penetration in the mixed ground. Tunn Undergr Space Technol. 2018;71:354–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Yin LJ, Gong QM, Ma HS, Zhao J, Zhao XB. Use of penetration tests to study the influence of confining stress on rock fragmentation by a TBM cutter. Int J Rock Mech Min Sci. 2014;72:261–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Liu J, Cao P, Han DY. Sequential penetration tests to investigate the influence of confining stress on rock breakage by tunnel boring machine cutter in a biaxial state. Rock Mech Rock Eng. 2016;49(1479–14):95.

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Itasca. 3DEC 3 dimensional distinct element code. User’s guide. Version 5.2; 2016.

Download references


This work was supported by the Opening Fund of State Key Laboratory for Geomechanics and Deep Underground Engineering, China University of Mining and Technology (Grant no. SKLGDUEK2007) and the Youth Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 42007277).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jian-Long Cheng.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest that exist.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cheng, JL., Wang, YX., Wang, LG. et al. Penetration behaviour of TBM disc cutter assisted by vertical precutting free surfaces at various depths and confining pressures. Archiv.Civ.Mech.Eng 21, 22 (2021).

Download citation


  • Hard rock
  • Precutting by water jet
  • TBM disc cutter penetration
  • Confining pressure
  • Failure mechanism