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!