Inside CCCC’s Tunnel Boring Machine Manufacturing Facility in Jiangsu (Photos)

By Théophile Niyitegeka
On 30 March 2024 at 06:18

In the arena of global infrastructure development, China Communications Construction Group Co Ltd (CCCC) stands as an icon, pioneering the path towards technological supremacy and infrastructural innovation.

Central to this quest is its subsidiary, CCCC Tianhe Mechanical Equipment Manufacturing Co Ltd, nestled in Changshu, Jiangsu Province.

This facility isn’t just a manufacturing unit; it’s the birthplace of some of the most advanced Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) the world has seen, marking a significant leap in the engineering domain.

TBMs, the workhorses of modern tunnel construction, are at the heart of CCCC Tianhe’s innovation. Unlike traditional tunneling methods, which often involve labor-intensive processes like rock drilling and blasting, TBMs offer a less intrusive alternative.

They not only minimize the impact on surrounding environments but also ensure the structural integrity of the tunnel walls, making them indispensable for projects traversing unstable geological conditions.

The scope of TBMs manufactured by CCCC Tianhe is impressively vast. The facility boasts the capability to produce over 160 shield machines annually, with sizes ranging up to 18 meters in diameter, alongside 50,000 tons of large steel structures.

This diversity caters to a wide spectrum of tunneling needs, encompassing mud water, earth pressure, dual-mode, composite, open, vertical tunneling, and even rescue tunneling machines, thus demonstrating CCCC Tianhe’s commitment to versatility and innovation.

The journey of CCCC Tianhe is marked by a series of groundbreaking achievements that underscore China’s transition from a follower to a frontrunner in the global engineering scene.

From the first ultra-large diameter shield machine "Tianhe," which shattered the foreign monopoly, to the "Zhenxing" mud-water shield machine that incorporated numerous domestic core components, CCCC Tianhe’s innovations have consistently pushed the boundaries of what’s possible.

Other notable achievements include the "Canal" shield machine, which represents a monumental advancement in continuous excavation technology, and the "Shouchuang," a vertical boring machine designed for the challenging conditions of the Tianshan Mountains.

CCCC Tianhe’s TBMs have carved tunnels in over 30 urban areas across China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, and have crossed borders into countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Russia, Lesotho, the Philippines, and more.

This international footprint is a testament to the company’s engineering excellence and its ability to meet the complex demands of both domestic and international markets.

The accolades and recognitions received by CCCC Tianhe, such as "National Key New Products," "High-tech Enterprise," and "Jiangsu Province Shield Machine Key Technology Engineering Technology Research Center," further affirm its status as a benchmark in the global tunnel excavation equipment industry. These honors not only reflect the company’s technological prowess but also its role as a trailblazer in the field of transportation infrastructure construction and management.

With a mantra that resonates with the spirit of innovation—"Innovation builds dreams and shields the future!"—CCCC Tianhe is dedicated to making the world more accessible, cities more livable, and life better. This vision, coupled with a corporate spirit of "hard work, innovation, integrity, and harmony," drives the company towards providing comprehensive, world-class services in high-end engineering equipment.

During a special session with journalists as part of the ‘2024 Travelogue of China’ Media Exchange Programme, Zha Chan Gmiao, the Executive General Manager of the Brand & Corporate Culture Department at CCCC, emphasized the company’s commitment to leveraging cutting-edge technologies and innovations to deliver top-tier services.

Zha highlighted the significant contributions the company has made in Africa and conveyed a hopeful outlook for the continued provision of high-quality infrastructure services across the continent and beyond.

He particularly noted CCCC’s capabilities and determination to foster a collaborative future with Africa through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

"For instance, in Kenya, the Mombasa Railway stands as a testament to our work, alongside numerous railways in Cameroon and harbors in Nigeria. Our projects include the construction of over 13,000 kilometers of roads," he stated.

"Wherever you find railways, ports, or bridges, you’ll see the handiwork of CCCC. The Chinese have made substantial efforts in nation-building, and CCCC possesses the complete capability and commitment to partner with African countries towards a brighter future," Zha elaborated.

With more than 130,000 workers, CCCC’s global presence spans over 150 countries and regions, securing the 61st spot in the Fortune Global 500 in 2021. The company is behind several iconic projects, such as the 55-kilometre Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, the longest sea-crossing bridge in the world; phase IV of Shanghai Yangshan Port, the largest automated terminal globally; and the Beijing-Xinjiang Expressway, the longest desert-crossing expressway on the planet.

By 2021, CCCC had accomplished the construction of over 13,000 kilometers of roads, in excess of 180 bridges, 121 deep-water berths, and 17 airports. It had supplied over 760 container cranes, managed 23 industrial parks, and constructed and operated more than 10,000 kilometers of railways, with signed contracts exceeding US $100 billion.

Inside the CCCC Tianhe Mechanical Equipment Manufacturing facility where Tunnel Boring Machines (TBMs) that redefine modern tunnel construction are created.
Robotic arms in action ensuring precision in every component manufactured at CCCC Tianhe.
A close-up view of the intricate assembly process of a Tunnel Boring Machine, highlighting the precision and teamwork of CCCC Tianhe's skilled workers.
Engineers at CCCC Tianhe work on the next generation of TBMs, driving the future of tunneling technology.
Workers meticulously welding TBM components, a testament to the human skill and dedication behind each machine produced by CCCC.
CCCC Tianhe's array of industry awards, reflect recognition of their leading role in the advancement of tunnel excavation equipment.
Stacks of massive steel structures await assembly into TBMs at CCCC Tianhe's manufacturing facility.
From initial designs to the assembly line, the lifecycle of a Tunnel Boring Machine unfolds within the walls of CCCC Tianhe.
An interior view of CCCC Tianhe manufacturing facility
Engineers conduct rigorous testing on TBMs, ensuring each machine meets the high standards of efficiency and safety set by CCCC Tianhe.
A detailed view of a TBM's cutting head at CCCC Tianhe manufacturing facility.
An employee of CCCC Tuanhe showing a model of manufactured Tunnel Boring Machines.

Théophile Niyitegeka / Jiangsu, China