– Imagine if your walls could stretch and stiffen to accommodate shifting loads or earthquakes. Imagine if the pipes in your home were able to change shape according to water flow rates. What if your table could be assembled by itself? This is how 4D printing works. It involves 3D-printed objects that change in response to environmental stimuli like heat, wind and water. 4D printing creates objects with the ability to change their shapes and possibly even their function over time. Another interesting term… What’s Disruption? And what is a prototype? Learn More About “4D Printing.” Before we get into the details about 4D printing and some of its applications, this video will explain how it works. The Potential Applications of 4D printing There are many applications for 3D printing, but 4D printing takes it to a whole new level. The use of special materials and complex designs can “programme” a 3D printed object to alter its form. The technology is a great tool for many industries, including aerospace, defense, military, biomedicine and automotive. Aerospace Developing intelligent materials that react quickly to external stimuli is a benefit in the aerospace sector. It is easier than ever to create self-deploying structures for ventilation or engine cooling. A partnership between Airbus SAS and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Self-Assembly Lab (MIT) is one project that’s currently underway. They are working together to develop a 4D printed material that can cool engines in extreme temperatures. They are currently looking into an air intake component which can alter its form depending on aerodynamic conditions. This will reduce air resistance. If this project is successful, astronauts could benefit from it for space exploration missions. Automotive A futuristic design was launched by BMW in early 2016, German. It included car parts that could be 4D printed and can adjust to various environmental conditions. BMW teamed up with MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab in recent years to create an inflatable structure (4D) that is flexible to changing air pressure. A second application is the creation of adaptive car seats. Biomedicine A photo-curable, 4D-printable resin was developed by the George Washington University’s research group. It is made of renewable soybean oil. The biocompatible resin reacts to temperature fluctuations and changes in shape. It then returns to its initial state after normalization. Additional studies have shown that this material could be used in the growth of human bone marrow stem cells. These findings could be used to develop biomedical scaffolds that can create functional human tissue. The potential use of 4D printing in the diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal disorders is another possibility. Researchers at MIT were able develop a 3D-printed ink infused magnetic microparticles. These microparticles are able to be controlled remotely to remove blockages and obtain tissue samples. They can also deliver medication to areas that have been injured. Defense and Military 3D Printing is widely used within the military and defense sectors. It looks as though the same applies to 4D printing. Researchers are currently looking into 4D printing for camouflage ready military uniforms. These can then be transformed to protect against poisonous gasses or shrapnels. A third potential application is the creation of self-assembling items such as shelters and bridges that can be used for tactical missions. 4D printing holds great potential, especially for manufacturing industries. Imagine objects with the potential to change their shape by using different stimuli. Although many 4D-printed technology is still being developed, they will soon be in common use.
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