The adoption of 3D printing is increasing. This technology is not only present in the domestic or educational sphere, through devices that allow the creation of small and medium-sized pieces, but it is also reaching different industries, including construction. China is an example of this. The country will print a huge 180-meter-high dam on the Tibetan plateau.
According to the South China Morning Post, this huge structure, designed to contain and channel the water that flows through the Yellow River, is part of the construction of a new hydroelectric power station called Yangqu. The project is already underway with its first steps and should be completed in 2024. By then, they say, it will provide 5 billion kilowatt-hours of energy each year to China.
A prey as big as it is ambitious
The heart of the project is a Tsinghua University study in which its authors claim that dam construction and 3D printing are "identical by nature." In this sense, they thought that the entire construction site could become a giant printer, with a large number of automated machines working together.
The dam, the researchers explain, will be built layer by layer. During the process, a central artificial intelligence (AI) system will be used to supervise a fleet of autonomous trucks that will transport the construction materials to the different work sites. Unmanned bulldozers and pavers, meanwhile, will shape the layers of the dam. In other words, it will be a fully automated process.
According to the researchers, advances in the field of artificial intelligence, including deep learning, will give systems the ability to recognize almost all objects on the site, this will include the materials and the different parts of the work. In addition, they will have the ability to "cope with the uncertainties of a changing environment" and multi-task flexibly.
The features of the system make it considered a giant 3D printer. The main author of the project, Liu Tianyun, believes that this type of automated solution will be beneficial to avoid human accidents and possible delays in the works. However, he points out that the extraction of the materials will still have to be done manually.
China has shown that it has the capacity to carry out large-scale projects, such as the Lianghekou mega-hydroelectric plant. Will he be able to finish his 3D printed dam in two years as promised? Time will tell. For now, the researchers are confident that this technology could also be used for other types of construction, for example, airports.
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