China will 3D-Print a Dam 590-feet Tall

Chinese engineers will take the ideas of a research paper and turn it into the world’s largest 3D-printed project. Within two years, officials behind this project want to fully automate the unmanned construction of a 590-foot-tall dam on the Tibetan Plateau to build the Yangqu hydropower plant—completely with robots.

The paper, published last month in the Journal of Tsinghua University (Science and Technology), laid out the plans for the dam, as first reported in the South China Morning Post. Researchers from the State Key Laboratory of Hydroscience and Engineering at Tsinghua University in Beijing explain the backbone of automation for the planned Yellow River dam that will eventually offer nearly five billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. (It’s worth noting that China’s Three Gorges Dam—a hydroelectric gravity dam spanning the Yangtze River, pictured above—is the world’s largest power station in terms of energy output.)

But it’s hard to tell what’s more ambitious: the fact that the researchers plan to turn a dam site into effectively a massive 3D-printing project, or that through every step of the process the project eliminates human workers as they go fully robotic.

Combining advanced technology, whether forming the segmented structures that will become the dam – or producing construction robots – this will be the infrastructure task of the century. I know we’ll get to see video as it moves into reality. I would love to watch something like this become usable reality. In context, this could be the first of the world’s newest pyramids.

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