Engineers in China are working on turning a Tsinghua University research paper into reality by building a 590-foot-tall 3D printed dam which will become the world’s tallest 3D printed structure upon completion in 2024.
The goal here is to showcase China’s prowess in 3D printing super-structures, address safety concerns associated with workers employed in such high risk tasks, and eliminate human error that could cause the infrastructure to collapse or break down eventually.
Citing the paper, the engineers behind this endeavor say that the Yangqu dam on the Tibetan plateau will be assembled layer by layer, just like with 3D printing, and it will be built using an AI system along with unmanned trucks, bulldozers, rollers, construction robots and other autonomous equipment.
The current tallest structure in the world built using 3D printing processes is a two-story office building in Dubai, standing 20 feet high. The Yangqu dam will be colossal by such standards.
According to the paper’s lead author and Tsinghua University scientist Liu Tianyun, a central AI system will be used to oversee a massive automated assembly line that starts with a fleet of unmanned trucks used to transport construction materials to parts of the worksite.
Unmanned bulldozers and pavers will then turn these materials into a layer of the dam, with sensor-equipped rollers helping press each layer so that they become firm and durable.
When a layer is complete, the robots will send information about the state of construction back to the AI system, ensuring that the whole process is automated.
The system will also allow on-site work to progress continuously and faster without safety concerns for human workers coming in the way.
The only task not be automated would be mining of the construction material that has to be still done manually.
Once completed, the Yangqu dam will provide 5 billion kilowatt-hours of power every year to China.
And if proven successful, its building method could provide a blueprint for other mega construction projects such as roadways, says Liu.
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