4D printing: the technology of the future?

3D printing has been around for more than 3 decades and has made it possible to create wonderful objects. Which means that in this environment, innovation is constantly on the move.

This has led to the emergence of a new technology that is 4D printing. It’s about going from 3 to 4 dimensions.

What is 4D printing? What are the advantages ? Is it futuristic technology? These are the questions that LV3D answers in this article.

4D printing: what is it?

It is about a process that allows a 3D printing object to modify its own structure, once printed. In other words, thanks to a 3D Printer France, the printed object can then change its shape under the influence of an external force, in particular light, temperature, etc.

MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab is one of the pioneers of this technology. The goal is to combine design with technology to create a material that can be programmed and self-assembled. If this objective is achieved, the result will revolutionize:

  • product assembly;
  • construction;
  • the performance of production chains;
  • the making ;

Several tests already carried out in this MIT laboratory are giving promising results.

How 4D printing works

4D printing uses 3D printers sold on the LV3D e-shop to create objects. To print objects, this technology uses a ” smart material “. This can be either a shape memory polymer or a hydrogel. Smart materials exhibit thermomechanical properties. These allow it to differentiate itself from the materials traditionally used for 3D printing.

In fact, thermomechanical properties allow a material to change shape. Unlike traditional 3D printed objects, 4D printed objects are not rigid. They do not retain their three-dimensional shapes indefinitely. All this shows that it is a technology of the future, but which has just germinated in laboratories.

4D printing: what are the advantages?

Like any futuristic technology, 4D printing has many advantages in several sectors. Here are two.

Size changes

So far, 3D printers cannot print all sizes of objects. On the other hand, the computer folding is one of the advantages of 4D printing. It will now be possible thanks to this futuristic technology to print large objects in one go.

Indeed, the user of the printer can reduce an object to its secondary size (shape) in order to print it. Once the object is obtained, it will be able, thanks to the thermomechanical properties, to unfold and adopt its desired shape.

New properties

To make 4D printing, you have to use materials with surprising mechanical properties. For the moment, those which are used are polymersequipped with ashape memory . Which in itself is a big step forward in that it is now possible to create an “intelligent” object that will change its spatial shape depending on the stimulus present. The more smart materials tested, the more surprising the properties to be developed.

Potential applications of 4D printing

It should be noted that the 4D printing is currently in its testing phase. However, several applications are already possible.

Self-repairing piping

This may sound like science fiction, but with 4D printing it will be possible to make pipes ” smart » of a plumbing network capable of changing their diameter in real time. Therefore, they will be able to adapt to the incoming water flow as well as the water demand. It will even be possible for these pipes to repair themselves in the event of a fracture without human intervention. In short, this means that as soon as their environment changes, they will also change their three-dimensional structure.

Self-assembling furniture

By using the thermomechanical properties of the materials used for 4D printing, it will suffice to print a flat board. This will change its shape to become a chair when exposed to either light or water. Now, 3D printers available on LV3Dwill be able to print any shape of furniture, whatever the size.

Application in the sanitary sector

In the healthcare industry, this4D technologycan make it possible to print proteins capable of reconfiguring themselves. Such reconfiguration can result in a molecule needed to treat given ailments. Research is ongoing to find materials that can change the configuration of proteins. They take place at the MIT Self-Assembly Laboratory, which initiated this technology.

The other application of this technology could be the manufacture of stents. Thanks to its intelligent properties, the latter will be able to move to the area where its presence is necessary in the body of a patient. Once at this point in the patient’s body, the prosthesis can unfold and become integrated into the whole body or environment to be treated.

Incidentally, 4D printing is definitely afuture technology.

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