Is 4D Printing the Next Big Thing?

by Reads (1,106)

Forget 3D printing, Scientists at MIT have moved on to 4D printing, a process where printed materials are able to self-assemble into new structures.

At the TED 2013 conference in Long Beach, TED Fellow and MIT researcher Skylar Tibbits presented the concept of 4D printing or “self-assembly” in which printed materials will be given an additional programmable layer that can hold a natural energy source that will allow it to change over time.

The researchers at MIT used a 3D printer from Stratasys and collaborated with Autodesk, a software developer that recently announced a partnership with notable 3D printer, Sculpteo.  The researchers combined the plastics used to create the current 3D projects with a new material that can absorb water.

With the aid of the new programmable material, the object can then “transform and adapt” over time with the water acting as a natural energy source.  Tibbits used the example of “water pipes that can expand to cope with different capacities or flows and save digging up the street” as a real world application.

To learn more about Tibbits’ presentation, check out the TED.com Blog or listen to his presentation below!

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