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A Revolution in Raise Boring – The Development of the RBR900VF


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Author R J Wood
ID P201402020


Raise drilling (or raise boring) is not a new technology or methodology. The first raise drilling machine was developed by The Robbins Company (TRC) of the USA in 1962. TRC manufactured the first tunnel boring machine (TBM) in 1952 and Jim Robbins, the founder of the company wanted to ‘turn the TBM concept on its head’ so to speak.

Many improvements have ensued in the 50 years since the first machine. Such improvements include advances in the drill rod and thread design, cutters and reaming heads. Raise boring would not have been possible without the development of the tungsten carbide insert cutters and there have been big advances in both the carbide technology and in the mechanical design of the cutters.

Over time mines have developed deeper with a greater use of diesel equipment resulting in greater ventilation requirements. This in turn means larger and deeper ventilation shafts. There have also been improvements in directional drilling techniques. This all combines with the need and ability to construct larger shafts using the safe method of raise drilling. With suitable geotechnical conditions the RBR900VF is capable of drilling shafts to a diameter and depth of greater than 8 m and 2000 m respectively. Greater diameters are possible over shorter lengths with suitable ground conditions.

The RBR900VF was designed and manufactured to specifications developed by Macmahon. This machine has the greatest thrust and torque capability of any machine in the world. It enables cutters to be more heavily loaded in the larger diameter heads and this is essential for efficient rock excavation. Additional features of the new machine include minimal manual handling to provide a safer working environment and higher strength steel for the drill rods providing additional safety margin.


Wood, R J, 2014. A revolution in raise boring – the
development of the RBR900VF, in Proceedings 12th AusIMM Underground
Operators’ Conference 2014
, pp 171–178 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).