CUES SPiDER 3d Scanner

Top Innovations That Drove the Growth of the Trenchless Industry

SPiDER Scanner CUES Inc.

The SPiDER Scanner from CUES Inc. is the first wireless and color manhole inspection technology in a lightweight and compact form.

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From the earliest horizontal directional drilling (HDD) projects and cured-in-place pipe relining  to CCTV advances and curved microtunneling, innovative ideas have helped grow the trenchless industry. Here’s a recap of some of our top picks for innovations – like the SPiDER Scanner from CUES – that helped grow the industry in the last 25 years.

Visit to learn more about the company’s latest innovation, the SPiDER scanner.

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Self-Contained HDD Rigs

New Ditch Witch JT10
Remember when Ditch Witch introduced the first HDD rigs in 1989 at the ICUEE show in Louisville, Ky? At the next ICUEE in 1991, Vermeer introduced its HDD rigs. These were units that had the power pack separate from the drill unit connected with umbilical cords. That was innovative at the time, but, as you realize, it was cumbersome having the drill rig separated from the power unit. So, our opinion, one of these top, really cool innovations was the introduction of the self-contained rigs that we have today. Drill rig, drill pipe and power supply are all contained in one unit.


US Pipelining CIPP at AFB

When Eric Wood invented the original Insituform CIPP technology over 40 years ago, we’re sure he could not have imagined how far the technology would advance. As the original patents expired, there have been numerous introductions of new liners, resins, curing methodology and insertion methods. CIPP will continue to grow as it has been so well accepted throughout the pipeline rehabilitation market.

HDD Intersects

With the increased capacity of HDD drills and underground navigational systems, HDD projects are now accomplishing drill lengths that were unheard of a decade ago. It’s hard to imagine that two directional drills coming from opposite ends that can meet so precisely in the middle. When you consider this is all being done underground, that makes it even more remarkable. Yes, there have been so many great advances in navigational systems and drills that make this possible, but we cannot discount the increased capabilities of the drill crews, contractors and engineering firms.

Condition Assessment

CUES SPiDER 3d Scanner

CCTV is often the first thought when you mention pipeline condition assessment, and it was for many years. The growth of other technologies using acoustics or sonar help system owners quickly assess or continuously monitor sections of pipe. In recent years manhole scanning tools have also arrived on market.The most recent is the SPiDER from CUES. (pictured above). Read more about the SPiDER here.

Fusible PVC

Fusible PVC pipe has had a major impact in the pipe bursting and even horizontal directional drilling arenas. It, as well as HDPE, has had dramatic impact on the acceptance and use of trenchless technology.

HDD Navigation, Location

One innovation that has really advanced HDD is locating and tracking. With this advancement, a driller can track the pipe and even projecting the exit point. These navigational systems coupled with major advances in downhole tooling have truly advanced HDD to become an accepted discipline in the trenchless industry.

Lateral Repairs

Turn your attention the big changes that have taken place regarding lateral rehabilitation. While main lines and manholes received attention, laterals were overlooked for years. However, laterals eventually got the attention of the industry and it is very pleasing to see the strong push for lateral rehabilitation in the market. The methodology of relining laterals is just about the same as relining main lines. Lining material and resins, plus supporting items are even sold as packages to communities to do their own lateral relining. This is sort of like “laterals in a box” with a cookbook instructing you how to do the job.

Curved Microtunneling

The 250-m radius curve for the Reconstruction of the West Don Sanitary
Trunk Sewer project is the tightest curve completed in North American to date.

Curved microtunneling is truly an amazing technological innovation that is gaining acceptance in North America, especially in Canada. Added to this innovation in microtunneling are the fascinating interjacks, as well as automated bentonite systems that now help microtunnelers to achieve much longer drives.


RapidView IBAK WWETT 2016
Innovations in CCTV have included four-color pan-and-tilt cameras, LED lights and a tremendous amount of new software associated with these inspection systems. Digital cameras are the norm vs. the old VHS tapes. The whole facet of handling and planning pipeline inspection has changed immeasurably.

Slurry Handling

There have been major improvements/innovations that have taken place in the area of equipment handling slurry. These equipment innovations include mud recycling systems, mud mixing equipment hydrocyclones and shale shakers. Big improvements in the chemistry of drilling fluids and slurry equipment have had a huge impact on the success of these trenchless projects. Simply using water cannot guarantee a successful drilling or boring project. The actual drilling fluids and related mud systems certainly desires notation as a major trenchless innovation over these last 20 years.

Ground Improvement

Over the years, it is really amazing how trenchless projects can be completed in what would otherwise be presented as impossible ground conditions, such as water, loose soil, etc. Today, projects are being successfully completed in part due to the advances made in the area of ground improvement — i.e. jet grouting, freezing and groundwater cut off. Sometimes you look at a microtunneling project, for example, and ask “How could they have possibly gone through that kind of geology?” Yet, they do.

There you have it. Our list of some of the significant innovations that helped shape the trenchless industry. This list was compiled from a two-part story we published in our April and May 2015 issues. Read those stories here:

RELATED: Innovations Drive Industry Growth – Rehab

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RELATED: Innovations Drive Industry Growth – New Installation
Editor’s Note: This sponsored list is the first in a series of monthly lists that the Trenchless Technology editorial staff will compile as part of our 25th anniversary celebration. If you are interested in sponsoring an upcoming list, contact Dan Sisko, advertising account manager/Trenchless Technology brand ambassador at

For more information about the SPiDER Scanner from CUES follow this handy link to their product brochure.
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