AI and 3D printers build 180-meter-tall dam on tibetan plateau


Author: Christina Petridou

Date: 05/18/2022

According to reports, China is building a 180-meter-tall hydropower dam on the Tibetan plateau by employing AI and construction robots such as 3D printers. Once completed, this ambitious project will carry the title of the world’s largest 3D-printed structure with zero human labor.

The innovative technology will relieve human beings from heavy-duty and hazardous work. Using unmanned building machinery fully guided by artificial intelligence, along with 3D printing technology, the structure will be constructed slice by slice. Unmanned bulldozers and pavers will turn delivered materials into a new construction layer, while with the aid of rollers it will get fitted into place.


China has already been very developed in the field of 3D printing, and this is the first time utilizing a 100% autonomous process, without the need for human presence on the construction site. One part of the Yangqu hydropower plant is meant to be finished in 2024, while its full completion will follow in 2025. According to the video below by CGTN, the dam will send about 5 billion KW hours of electricity to china annually, which is the equivalent energy an amount of 1.5 million tons of coal would produce. 


If they do manage to pull off this project, it will be quite an impressive and groundbreaking accomplishment. Not only does the fully autonomous process save the need for human labor, it also removes humans from what seems like a very dangerous worksite. Dams are inherently holding back a log of energy, so failures, errors, or natural issues during the construction process be disastrous. The sheer scale of the proposed dam is also far beyond the size of any 3D-printed structure to date. I think the lack of necessary human involvement in 3D construction printing, with or without AI, presents a unique opportunity to construct in places that would too dangerous or inaccessible to humans or traditional processes otherwise. I’m interested to explore what that looks like.