Computing three-axis orientations of a tunnel-boring machine through surveying observation points

Xuesong Shen, Ming Lu, Wu Chen

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


This research aims to develop an alternative solution to computing the three-axis orientations of a tunnel-boring machine (TBM) during microtunneling and pipe-jacking operations. Comprehensive geometric foundations are given to shed light on the computing mechanism for deriving the TBM's three rotation angles of yaw, pitch, and roll through surveying a limited quantity of observation points on the TBM. Two well-established computing algorithms in space science are elaborated, including the deterministic triaxis attitude determination (TRIAD) algorithm and the optimal quaternion method. MonteCarlo simulations are conducted to assess the accuracies on the orientations determined by the two algorithms, given (1)different levels of point surveying errors and (2)varying distances between observation points. In relation to microtunneling applications, four layout options for fixing the observation points on the TBM are designed and evaluated. To prove the concept and verify the application value of the proposed computing approach, a practical implementation case is presented, in which the computational method of quaternion was used to fix a working TBM's orientations on a microtunneling site.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-241
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Computing in Civil Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2011


  • Algorithms
  • Microtunneling
  • MonteCarlo method
  • Rotation
  • Simulation models
  • Surveys
  • Trenchless technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications


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