China is looking for robotic labor to speed up the construction of high-speed rail

China aims to speed up the construction of a high-speed rail system with artificial intelligence (AI)-controlled robots that have been tested and designed specifically for the task.

Aug 7, 2023 - 14:43
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China is looking for robotic labor to speed up the construction of high-speed rail

"China's use of artificial intelligence in a national project is just one more reminder that Xi Jinping is going full steam ahead with this strategic technology and its applications," said Brian J. Cavanaugh, director of US Global Strategies. "If America stops competing and innovating in this area, as some have suggested, it risks being left behind."

"However, given China's repeated challenges to building standards and a tendency to overbuild, we may hold that we have exaggerated this reported achievement," he warned.

As the coronavirus pandemic has forced Beijing to maintain its zero-tolerance policy on COVID-19, which has led to repeated and prolonged shutdowns to fight the virus, Chinese engineers have increasingly turned to robotic workers to help them complete daunting construction tasks.

Last year, workers at the Yangqu Dam were no longer needed when Tsinghua University published papers showing that engineers could complete construction by 2024 using only 3D printers, artificial intelligence and robots to complete the 590-foot-tall structure.

Those goals and other leaps in artificial intelligence technology have led engineers to believe they can produce robots capable of laying tracks, welding, painting and inspecting the operation of the nation's high-speed rail system.

In 2021, China installed as many robots in factories as the rest of the world, accounting for just under half of all heavy equipment industrial robot installations during that time.

Experts suggest that the decline in cheap labor, along with rising wages in the country, has forced officials to rely more on robotic labor to keep up with the production demands that have helped make China such an important part of the global supply chain.

Reports of lower-than-expected birth rates this year, combined with projected population declines of about 100 million by 2050 and 600 million by 2100, have only increased the need for an automated, aging workforce.

This workforce fits perfectly with China's plans to continue developing a railway system that uses a structure known as a contact system and#40;OCSand#41; which helps provide electricity to the trains.

According to the South China Morning Post, the OCS construction process is "complicated" and dangerous, requiring multiple field workers to coordinate the pulley systems that lift and secure the various parts of the system.

New automated technology now collects real-time data from the construction site and transmits it to an intelligent warehouse that stores and distributes the necessary material to the factories that assemble the various components and deliver them to their destination.

Humans are involved in snapping parts into place and attaching components to each other, but until then the process is fully automated; even vehicles carrying material move automatically

In the warehouse, it is now possible to perform self-care and inspect the material, identify defects and mark them for removal.

The researcher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, called the construction process and pace "definitely impressive" and that it represented "a significant advance in transportation infrastructure."

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