Traditionally the method of excavation for shaft sinking was by the drill and blast method. From the 1970’s onwards attempts have been made to develop blind shaft boring sinking machines. The purpose was to achieve faster sinking rates while at the same time providing a safer working environment for personnel.
The first, and only, attempt to produce a full-face sinking machine was by Robbins in the USA during the period 1975-81. Details of the machine are included in the paper and its use in a trial sinking is discussed.
As an alternative to the full-face machine, a new machine was developed by Robbins during 1983-85 which used a cutter wheel attached to the bottom of a sinking stage. This machine is also described in the paper, although it was never used in a sinking.
In 1971 the first Wirth shaft boring machine was put into service in the German coal mining industry. It was called the V-mole and it, and its use, are described in the paper.
Herrenknecht, in Germany, took up the challenge again in 2010 to develop shaft sinking machines. Two systems were considered, the Shaft Boring Machine (SBM) and the Shaft Boring Roadheader (SBR). The former uses the cutting wheel principle while the latter consists of a roadheader arm attached to the bottom of a sinking stage.
The paper concludes with a discussion on the future use of shaft sinking machines.