4D Printing

Yes, you can now print your own Bumblebee!

The next-generation of additive manufacturing is already here and it is known as 4D Printing. While some of us must be thinking that 3D printing techniques are yet to be adopted across industries, the news is that 4D printing is also emerging.

3D printing is for making three-dimension objects that have height, width, and depth (x,y,z axes). Moving beyond 3D printing, the 4D printing technique include time as the fourth transformation. This new dimension represents the ability of the 3D printed material to change shape after production.   

4D printing will produce 3D printed objects or materials that can transform into new structures or shapes under the influence of external stimuli (heat, light, other external energy, etc.). The novel materials in this technique provides the added capability to transform from one shape to the other.

4D printing uses programmable materials or shape shifting materials that perform differently in the presence of water, light, touch, etc. Such 4D printed objects utilize the fourth dimension, time, for self-transformation (to change function, color, shape or other properties). This allows for self-assembly and self-repair.



Source: Self-Assembly Lab – MIT & Stratasys

The examples of 4D printing techniques can be fascinating and diverse. We could print folded 4D objects through computational folding and later the printed object could unfold and become larger than the printer itself.

Few of the entities active in 4D printing are:

  • MIT
  • Stratasys
  • Harvard University
  • National University of Singapore
  • Harbin Institute of Technology

The applications for 4D printing are diverse. In the medical field, it can be used to build prosthetic limbs that transform due to touch or for medical implants that change their shape inside the body. Manufacturing is another sector that can benefit from this technique.

Or imagine, you could print your own transformer – Bumblebee

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