Designing Innovative Floodwater Defenses for Tunnels




You’re an engineer and a raging storm is heading to your town. A tidal surge is inevitable. Your job is to protect the subway from flooding. What are your ideas?

You might think about a better drainage system and pumps. Maybe floodgates. But it’s all too little, too late, and too expensive. The winds are picking up. What’s your other idea?

US Homeland Security asked Ever J. Barbero, a West Virginia professor who specializes in advanced materials in engineering, for his ideas, and here’s what he proposed:

“We’ll put an air bag in a tunnel,” he told the New York Times. The pressurized plug would take about 30 minutes to deploy, using friction to keep the giant inflatable in place as floodwaters pushed against it.

Inflatable tunnel plug, an innovative design solution from ILC Dover

The Inflatable Tunnel Plug

Ideas like that are why we all fell in love with engineering in the first place.

But university researchers aren’t necessarily equipped to manufacture prototypes on the scale that Barbero proposed. So, he pulled in a company that specializes in softgoods materials—spacesuits, airships, and other forms of inflatables.

Sixty-five-year-old ILC Dover designs and develops products for aerospace, pharmaceutical, and personal protection industries. NASA, Raytheon, Pfizer, Boeing, and many, many others rely on this US-based company.

ILC suggested solutions for the subway plugs, including materials and layered structures. Here’s an early prototype:

Back at ILC’s R&D labs, engineers are designing products with PTC Creo. ILC Dover has been using PTC CAD software since 2003, and today works with PTC Creo, PTC WindchillPTC Creo Advanced Assembly Extension (AAX), and PTC Creo Interactive Surface Design Extension (ISDX).

The company adopted the PTC products to speed up development and eliminate costly mistakes during design. With PTC Windchill, the R&D team can also provide a central storage area and remote access to all of its research projects and products.

PTC Creo AAX has been especially important as the engineering teams create top-down designs, where multiple engineers can easily work concurrently together. Developers can create skeleton models that outline the larger projects and key interfaces, and designers can then work on the part and assembly that most concerns them and their expertise. Using this approach, they don’t have to worry so much about how their work will interface—or interfere—with the work of others.

“PTC Creo and PTC Windchill flexibility allows our engineers to establish product development efficiencies and improve product quality while getting products to market 50% faster,” says Bobby Jones, Dover Engineering CAD team leader.

Over all, his team says they’ve eliminated costly mistakes by 30%. As for the bottom line, sales growth has risen 30% year after year at ILC Dover.

Find out more about this fascinating company and its products in this video. And watch closely at the 3:30 mark—PTC Creo makes a cameo!

Images courtesy of ILC Dover.