An Intro to 4D Printing: What it is and How it Could Revolutionize Manufacturing
There are many recent technologies that have broken new ground for the manufacturing industry, but 4D printed materials could be one of the biggest innovations since 3D printing, which became a widespread and viable consumer and manufacturing asset. So, what exactly is 4D printing and why is it so impressive?
“In 4D printing, time is the fourth dimension that characterizes the structure of the material; namely, these materials can change shape even after they have been printed. The ability for a material to morph into a new shape alleviates the need to build a new part for every new application, and hence, can lead to significant cost savings.” – Dr. Balazs on Science Daily.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have created photo-responsive and thermo-responsive materials that can bend and contort when exposed to light or heat. To create this material they put photo-responsive fibers in thermo-responsive gel to create a malleable material that could be used in a wide range of applications.
These materials could be used to make parts for machines that could change and adapt based on demands, create robotic arms for surgeons to use in complex surgeries, create lifelike robots that could be used for a variety of uses and be used to manufacture adaptive and dynamic products. This new material will even make it possible to produce 4D printers that can print objects which morph themselves into nearly any shape imaginable. The possibilities are broad and endless.
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