3D printing is a process by which objects are created by piling layer upon layer of some material to create an almost limitless range of shapes and designs. While the objects created by 3D printing are extremely versatile, once printing is complete, they are generally limited to a single form.
Now, however, researchers have made exciting new advances in “4D printing,” a method of 3D printing that allows objects to change over the fourth dimension, time.
The new process could have applications in multiple scientific fields.
Researchers from MIT and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) published a paper in the online journal Scientific Reports earlier this month detailing advances in methods to create 3D-printed objects that can change shape when subjected to some sort of outside stimuli such as light, heat, or electricity.
The changes in shape are possible thanks to to the special properties of so-called “shape-memory polymers,” which have the ability to “remember” their original shape even after that shape has been radically distorted. In the case of the MIT/SUTD study, a small 3D-printed replica of the Eiffel Tower was bent out of shape and “frozen” in place at room temperature. When heat was applied to the model, the tower returned to the Parisian monument’s familiar shape. Read More...