When it comes to microtunnelling, there are a number of challenges that can derail a project, costing time and money. That’s why choosing a contractor with versatile equipment is important, as it increases the likelihood that your project will successfully be completed on time and on budget.

One of the key benefits to selecting a microtunnelling contractor with versatile equipment is the reduction of risk throughout the project delivery.

When working with versatile equipment, a project is able to adapt – this, along with knowledge surrounding the existing ground conditions, can dramatically reduce risk in a microtunnelling project.

Versatility is especially crucial considering the geotechnical information provided at the start of a project isn’t always 100 per cent accurate, and contractors often arrive on site to find different conditions than were expected – with unexpected ground conditions a common reason for project delays or installation failure.

Versatile equipment means that even if contractors can’t predict what lies beneath them, they can be assured the equipment can get the job done, despite unforeseen issues.

The AXIS laser guided boring system is a versatile pitch-launched microtunnelling machine, designed to provide contractors with a versatile solution that combines productivity, accuracy and efficiency.

Rather than jacking it into unconfirmed ground conditions, which can be risky, the AXIS uses vacuum extraction to perform a pilot line, allowing the contractor to visually inspect the ground and select the best drill head for the prevailing ground conditions, before committing to jacking the final line.

Changing conditions are handled with ease

Another factor for contractors to consider are ground conditions, which can be notoriously volatile during microtunnelling projects. Different ground conditions – such as varying soil types, groundwater conditions, the presence of rock and debris, and fractured rock and sand – require different drill heads and approaches.

This means an unexpected change to the ground midway through jacking can be time consuming and costly, as most machines are only designed to move forward and the drill head will need to be dug out from above in order to change it.

The AXIS guided boring system is the only machine on the market designed to deal with changing ground conditions, using technology that allows it to retract.

Different pipe materials and diameters can be used

Versatile guided boring systems such as the AXIS also have the ability to use different pipe materials and diameters for different projects.

This versatility provides contractors with more options to select the best material and diameter for the ground conditions, traditional preference and project specifications, such as costs and matching with existing infrastructure.

Usually microtunneling equipment relies on the use of a jacking pipe to transmit thrust from the jacking station, to the drill head, to progress the line.

This means that customised drill heads are needed to allow for the installation of different sized pipes – this can be costly, especially if the contractor isn’t going to use the pipe size often or ever again.

As the AXIS guided boring system uses vacuum extraction where, self supporting ground, the force on a pipe is just its own weight – this means that any type of pipe can be used,  it’s just the ground conditions that determine what type.

This means it can install a range of piping materials, such as PVC, PVE, clay, concrete, steel encased, ductile iron and HDPE – a mix of high and low strength materials.

Furthermore, the AXIS guided boring system only requires one drill head to complete a pilot line. When it is finished, the reaming tool, which is relatively inexpensive, just needs to be changed to suit the diameter required.

The system is regularly used to install pipes in the 300-600mm range, boasting projects up to 900mm; this is because the system can install pipe using the pilot and pull back method, or the jack and ream method.

From reducing risk, avoiding project delays from changing ground conditions and allowing for a variety of pipe materials and configurations, there are multiple benefits to selecting a contractor with versatile microtunnelling equipment.


Global microtunnelling pioneer Stuart Harrison is the Managing Director of Edge Underground, where he specialises in on-grade microtunnelling installations with millimetre accuracy. Stuart is also the inventor of the AXIS Guided Boring system, and he is constantly working to improve the effectiveness of this and other trenchless systems used in the installation of gravity sewers.

To discuss your next microtunnelling installation, contact Stuart on 1300 JACKED or at [email protected].

This is a Sponsored Editorial brought to you by Edge Underground. For more information please visit

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