Preprint / Version 1

Earthmoving through the Lens of Geotechnical Engineering


  • James Hambleton



earthmoving, modeling, soil-machine interaction, soil mechanics


Earthmoving machines of varying sophistication, ranging from the simple garden spade to the hydraulic excavator, have evolved considerably over the centuries, but the scientific understanding of earthmoving processes lags considerably behind the technology. Historically much effort has been directed towards aspects of the machine, whereas relatively little attention has been given to the soil. For this reason, the problem has primarily engaged the interest of mechanical engineers. This paper provides a brief overview of the state of the art in analytical and numerical modeling, as well as some of the significant challenges that have yet to be overcome. It concludes with a description of the research program at Northwestern University, which includes analytical and numerical modeling of earthmoving processes and experiments completed using a new experimental facility. The preliminary results shown in the paper highlight key features of earthmoving processes and the potential for contributions from geotechnical engineers.


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