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Car and Driver: This “Zipper Truck” Can Build Tunnels at Nearly One Foot Per Minute [w/ Video]


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Zipper truck


Tunnels are tricky business. You must first bore through the earth, then you either shore up your hole and begin walling it in, or do the digging and wall-building simultaneously using a huge Tunnel Boring Machine similar to the one munching its way beneath London, laying the foundation for the new Crossrail train system. But giant machines move slowly, and regardless, tunnel construction tends to be a tedious process. Not so if you have the “Zipper Truck,” a tunnel-creating invention that situates a half-cylinder-shaped array of rollers atop a regular flatbed truck. (As distinct from other “zipper trucks” that rearrange highway barriers.) Thought up by Lock Block, Ltd., the Zipper Truck works with the company’s special Lego-like arch blocks to quickly set archways to support tunnel roofs. While it’s been in use for a few years, we just stumbled across the special truck in a video posted to Tech Insider.


Zipper truck


The caveat with the zipper truck, of course, is that the tunnel must first be dug, or assembled on flat ground before earth is poured over the creation. Anyway, the Zipper Truck features a hemispherical array of rollers that run down the truck’s length. The roller array is tilted at an angle, with the front situated higher than the rear. During an archway’s construction, workers assemble the first “layers” of Lock Blocks’ locking blocks atop the rearmost portion of the Zipper Truck, setting the first “keystone” before gradually working their way forward (where the radius of the Zipper Truck’s roller deck grows, and the pieces thus sit slightly apart). Once a few feet of archway is laid across the back of the Zipper Truck, the truck slowly pulls forward, lowering the blocks into their final load-bearing position as they “slide” down the roller array and interlock like a zipper; meanwhile, workers repeat the process over and over until the archway is complete. It is a simple and rather ingenious solution to archway creation, and equal credit goes to the concrete Lock Blocks, which thanks to their interlocking fingers can be interwoven around the Zipper Truck before gravity locks them into place as the truck moves away.


Is it as cool as a Tunnel Boring Machine? No, but it’s straightforward and can assemble (small) tunnels quickly—again, so long as the digging has taken place, or earth will be poured over the final product. (This is no, ahem, dig at the Zipper Truck’s tunnels, it only means that the assembly method requires airspace above the eventual roof—dig a long trench, assemble the archway, put earth on top, and you have a tunnel.) In fact, Lock Block claims the rig can lay nearly five feet of archway every five minutes. Besides building these tunnels, the Zipper Truck also can lay archways for wine cellars, ditches, bridges, and other projects. You can see the truck in action below:



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