4D Printing

Revolutionizing material form and control

In a collaboration between MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab and Stratasys education and R&D departments, a new process called 4D printing is being developed.

The results demonstrate a radical shift in rapid prototyping, where objects change over time to perform programmed functions, based simply on material properties.

4D Printing Project

Revolutionizing Material Form and Control with 4D Printing an Academic Project in Collaboration with Stratasys

In a unique research collaboration between Stratasys’ Education, R&D departments and MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, a new process is being developed, known as 4D Printing.

Led by Skylar Tibbits, Self-Assembly Lab Director and trained Architect, Computer Scientist and Artist, this unique research focuses on developing self-assembly technologies for large-scale structures in our physical environment.

Tibbits’ 4D Printing project is enabled by Stratasys’ Connex multi-material 3D printing technology - with the added capability of embedded transformation from one shape to another, directly off the 3D printer.

How it Works

With Stratasys’ Connex technology, a single print, with multi-material features, can transform from any 1D strand into 3D shape, 2D surface into 3D shape or morph from one 3D shape into another. Objet Connex multi-material 3D printing technology is an important part of his work – and is being used extensively in this new process.

The Connex multi material technology allows the researchers to program different material properties into each of the various particles of the designed geometry and harnesses the different water-absorbing properties of the materials to activate the self-assembly process.

With water as its activation energy, this technique promises new possibilities for embedding programmability and simple decision making into non-electronic based materials. (Imagine robotics-like behavior without the reliance on complex electro-mechanical devices)

Future Applications

Although not commercially available, self-assembly is just a beginning of a whole innovative world of manufacturing with minimum energy. As environmental, economic, human and other constraints continue to fluctuate, we will eventually need dynamic systems that can respond with ease and agility. 4D Printing is the first of its kind to offer this exciting capability. This is truly a radical shift in our understanding of structures, which have up to this point, remained static and rigid (think aerospace, automotive, building industries etc) and will soon be dynamic, adaptable and tunable for on-demand performance.

Watch 4D Printing in Action!

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