Published in Computational Mechanics Vol. 52 (3), pp. 607-629, 2013
Underground construction involves all sort of challenges in analysis, design, project and execution phases. The dimension of tunnels and their structural requirements are growing, and so safety and security demands do. New engineering tools are needed to perform a safer planning and design. This work presents the advances in the particle finite element method (PFEM) for the modelling and the analysis of tunneling processes including the wear of the cutting tools. The PFEM has its foundation on the Lagrangian description of the motion of a continuum built from a set of particles with known physical properties. The method uses a remeshing process combined with the alpha-shape technique to detect the contacting surfaces and a finite element method for the mechanical computations. A contact procedure has been developed for the PFEM which is combined with a constitutive model for predicting the excavation front and the wear of cutting tools. The material parameters govern the coupling of frictional contact and wear between the interacting domains at the excavation front. The PFEM allows predicting several parameters which are relevant for estimating the performance of a tunnelling boring machine such as wear in the cutting tools, the pressure distribution on the face of the boring machine and the vibrations produced in the machinery and the adjacent soil/rock. The final aim is to help in the design of the excavating tools and in the planning of the tunnelling operations. The applications presented show that the PFEM is a promising technique for the analysis of tunnelling problems.