Researchers from Tsinghua University in Beijing recently unveiled plans to build a nearly 600-foot-tall dam using 3D printing methods. This could be the largest 3D-printed, AI-built structure ever built, but that could also depend on the definition of “3D printing.”
Builders are already saving time and money by using large 3D printers to create layers of concrete to build houses. Last year, a manufacturing company used robotic wire-arc additive manufacturing to 3D print a metal bridge in the Netherlands. But Tsinghua’s proposal does not involve any such technology.
The researchers hope to use an army of AI-powered robots, excavators, trucks, bulldozers, pavers and other vehicles to complete the Yangqu hydropower station currently under construction on the Tibetan section of the Yellow River. By incorporating an automated scheduling system, the researchers called the system a single large-scale 3D printer.
No human being will be directly involved in the construction of the dam. The AI will slice the 3D model of the project into layers and assign each layer to the drone in sequence. AI will automatically plan material collection, driving routes and placement. Plus, it analyzes vibrations to determine build quality. Humans will only mine filled rock.
In addition to speed and cost advantages, these machines are better able to withstand dangers like low oxygen levels, work around the clock, and researchers believe they are less prone to human error. The most obvious disadvantage is that such a massive project often results in the loss of potential jobs.
Scheduled for completion in 2024, the dam will provide nearly 5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity to Henan province.