Robots and 3D printers instead of workers: A revolutionary project in China, the deadline for the completion of the dam is 2024

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The 180-meter-high hydroelectric plant on the Tibetan Plateau will be built by robots, and the material will be made using a 3D printer. Chinese scientists are turning the construction site into the largest 3D printer in the world, and the project is expected to be completed in 2024. Unmanned excavators, trucks, bulldozers, and paving machines will be fully controlled by artificial intelligence, the South China Morning Post reports. The construction process will be additive, which means that it will be built, that is, printed part by part.

The Yanggu Dam will be able to send about five billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually from the upper reaches of the Yellow River to Henan. The electricity will travel through a 1,500-meter long high-voltage line, built exclusively for the transmission of sustainable energy.

“After years of development and testing, 3D technology for large-scale infrastructure construction is ready for mass application. It will free people from hard, Aesthetic, and dangerous work,” said project lead scientist Liu Tianiun in a scientific paper for Tsinghua University Journal.

In the article, Liu and his team outlined the benefits of their findings in the field of artificial intelligence. Machines will now be able to recognize almost any object on the spot, cope with environmental uncertainties, and flexibly perform different tasks.

Most importantly, the team points out that artificial intelligence will not make human errors. Liu claims that truck drivers often delivered material to the wrong locations, while bumps and strong vibrations prevented drivers from laying the track perfectly straight. Most of the workers could not read the technical instructions correctly.

“Artificial intelligence equipped with knowledge and information is a new tool that will shape our future,” said Liu.

An idea born ten years ago

Liu came up with the idea to print Iam Gonn construction projects with his colleagues ten years ago. The idea was to turn the entire construction site into a huge printer with a large number of automated machines that would work seamlessly together. The printer was primarily developed as an alternative producing less waste than cutting and grinding precious materials.

Some architects have started using this technology on buildings, but all previous projects have been small. The headquarters of the Dubai Future Foundation, the first buildings made using 3D printing, are only six meters high.

In previous projects, artificial intelligence had only the role of coordinator. Chinese city engineers thus built the second largest dam in the world, Baihetan, in just four years. Because of the rapid construction, critics of the project question how harmful the process is to the environment.

“Testing the technology in previous construction projects has shown that smart machines can do the job better than humans, especially in difficult and dangerous conditions,” Liu said. He did not respond to a question about the progress of the Yangku Dam, but according to Chinese media, work began at the end of last year in Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province.

The 3D construction site will work by dividing the computer model of the dam into layers by artificial intelligence. After that, a team of robots will add layers one by one. Unmanned excavators will be able to recognize and load material from warehouses into automated trucks.

The central artificial intelligence will calculate the optimal route that the trucks will follow and so the right material will end up in the right place at the right time. There they will be located by robotic bulldozers and asphalt pavers and turned into a dam layer. Automated rollers will press this layer until it is solid. The rollers will have sensors that will analyze ground vibrations and other data to monitor construction quality.

Not all dam construction work will be done by machines. Excavation of stones from the nearby mountains will be done manually due to the complexity of the task.

The team notes that this technology can also be used in other infrastructure projects, for example in the construction of airports and roads.

“3D technology has its limits, but it will find more applications in the future. It cannot print a structure that consists of different materials, for example, reinforced concrete consisting of steel and cement. But an army of construction robots can help with a sudden fall of the number of workers” Lui explained.