3D-printed hydroelectric dam
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China is going to build the Yangqu hydroelectric dam on the Tibetan Plateau using 3D printing. The 180-metre high dam will be built layer by layer using a special-purpose 3D printer, which will be employed in conjunction with trucks, bulldozers, excavators, pavers and rollers controlled by artificial intelligence.

The photo is sourced from scmp.com

The project is to be fulfilled by 2024 on the Yellow River. The plant will generate 5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity (kWh) annually, enough to provide power to 50 million people in Henan province of the east-central China.

The Yangqu hydroelectric dam is not the only infrastructure project in China that is being implemented using additive technologies (layer-by-layer build-up of objects). Say, in 2021, the Tsinghua University School of Architecture 3D-printed a concrete bookstore in Shanghai’s Wisdom Bay Innovation Park. In turn, Polymaker, a company specialising in the production of filaments for 3D printing, together with construction company Shanghai Mechanized Construction Group Co., printed a fifteen-metre pedestrian bridge, which was subsequently installed in Shanghai.

Additive technologies are gaining increased use in the energy sector. For instance, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia uses 3D printing facilities to produce rolled photovoltaic cells, and the US company RCAM Technologies produces high-rise wind turbines. Other examples include the UK branch of Siemens, which uses 3D printing to produce gas turbine blades (a technology that saves time by 90%), and the UAE-based D-Idea, which prints the so-called smart palm trees, that is, reinforced plastic photovoltaic structures used for mobile phone charging stations in Dubai.

3D print is one of the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution, which has affected the global energy industry as well. In addition to 3D printing, such technologies as “drones” that allow remote monitoring of pipelines, digital fields that facilitate oil and gas “greenfields” development, and VR simulators used for personnel training are becoming increasingly popular.

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