Material properties are now allowing for an added dimension in 3D printing – time. Thanks to “programmed action of the shape memory fibers,” a 3D-printed object can change shape after being printed. This is called 4D printing.
Below, a 3D-printed noodle-like strand distinctly changes shape over time, after having been printed already.
First proposed by MIT faculty member Skylar Tibbits, 4D printing is a trend university academics and innovative firms alike are catching onto. Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder “incorporated “shape memory” polymer fibers into the composite materials used in traditional 3D printing, which results in the production of an object fixed in one shape that can later be changed to take on a new shape.” Stratasys has been collaborating with MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab to create Connex technology, their 4D printing application.
This added spin on 3D printing technology may change how industrial manufacturers do what they do – it will reduce costs of assembly both in factories and at home. Objects will assemble themselves! And this innovation continues to be improved as you read this!