China will print a hydroelectric dam 3D … and without any labor!

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The project seems crazy. New dams will be built on the Tibetan plateau without the use of human labor. The construction will be supported entirely by machines controlled by artificial intelligence, which will erect the structure layer by layer using the same process as 3D printing. Once completed, the Yanku Hydroelectric Power Plant will supply about 5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually to Henan Province in east-central China.

The largest 3D printer in the world That is, on the condition that the scientists involved in the project erect this 180-meter-high structure on the banks of the Yellow River. No human workers will be present at the construction site: All construction equipment (excavators, trucks, bulldozers, rollers, etc.) will be unmanned and controlled by artificial intelligence. The plant, expected to be completed in 2024, will supply electricity to about 100 million people across Henan Province.

China currently ranks first in the ranking of hydropower producing countries: its power stations represent about 31% of the world’s hydropower and 17% of the country’s electricity generation. The Three Gorges Dam Power Station, located on the Yangtze River in central China’s Hubei Province, is the most powerful in the world. In 2021, it generated 103.6 TWh of electricity, according to the operating company China Three Gorges Corporation. The Yanku plant may not be as productive, but it is distinguished by a particularly innovative method of construction.

A fully autonomous building project

This unique project was presented in the newspaper of Tsinghua University, which is responsible for its implementation. The article mentions “a 3D printing system using intelligent robots for quick and efficient filling of large construction projects”. This system includes a construction planning device and an assembly line. The planning system is responsible for calculating the infill component data by dividing the digital design model into layers, and then planning the route for each stage of the construction process.

Construction robots will collect filling materials when needed and transport them through a smart paving and rolling system. The machines will be equipped with sensors to verify that the structure has achieved the required rigidity. After each level is completed, the robots will send construction status information to the planning system; This process will be repeated until the dam is completed. Details of the manufacturing process have not been released by scientists.

Keep in mind that China is not new to this: both the world’s largest 3D printed pavilion and the first 3D printed retractable bridge were built in China. The latter, just nine meters long, is located in Wisdom Bay Park in Shanghai. The district is also known for promoting this technology: in addition to a museum dedicated to 3D printing and several companies in the sector, it is one of the longest 3D printed bridges in China, 3.5 meters wide by 26 meters long.

Nevertheless, these combination production projects always involve human workers during their construction. With this 100% autonomous dam project, China is taking a new step: it is the first exhibition in the field of construction, combining 3D printing and artificial intelligence. The aim is to free people from heavy, repetitive and dangerous work, according to those responsible for the project. This method also eliminates human errors (for example when compactor roller drivers do not keep a perfectly straight line), but above all, allows the site to run 24 hours without interruption.

The largest 3D construction in the world

With a height of 180 meters, this hydroelectric dam will become the largest installation in the world printed in 3D. The record so far has been set by a 9.5 m high two-storey office building built in Dubai in 2020: 640 m² of office space created by a single printer, with three employees responsible for controlling the work. UAE Cabinet Minister Mohammed al-Gergawi announced at the inauguration that by 2030, a quarter will be built using this technology, which he considers 50% faster and half the cost. .

According to Scott Santens, a United States universal basic income lawyer, his country would not consider implementing such a project because it sees job creation as the best solution to poverty. ” The United States would never accept such a project (at least not before accepting universal basic income). Why? Because we worship job creation instead of believing that the purpose of this type of job is to do it, not to hire people in the process. , He said on his Twitter account.

Replacing human labor with advanced technology is a long-standing debate. But with this large-scale project, one might also be surprised at the Chinese government’s priorities, which in the face of the outbreak of Covid-19 – which has added major logistical problems and food shortages – have not been able to confirm. Supplies to Shanghai residents have been off the house for weeks.

Source: Tsinghua University Journal

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