4D Printing, Disorder Building Ordered Structures

Massachusetts Institute of Technology is widely considered the hotbed in the world’s technological innovation, and nothing is more on the forefront of the future than the MIT Media Lab. At events all over the world MIT’s Technology Review tries to start global conversations about technologies that matter, the people who make them and how they could change our lives. At last week’s MIT’s Technology Review EmTech Brazil, audiences got a taste of what the future of wearable technology and self-assembling consumer products could be.

The idea behind 4D printing is that you take multi-material 3D printing — so you can deposit multiple materials — and you add a new capability, which is transformation, that right off the bed, the parts can transform from one shape to another shape directly on their own. In a paper published in Nature Scientific Reports, They looked at the design of complex self-deformations in objects that have been printed from multiple materials as a means to customise the object into specific forms. The expanding materials were placed strategically on the main structure to produce joints that stretched and folded like a bendy straw when activated by water, forming a broad range of shapes.

There’s more that can be done with 3D printed materials to make them more flexible and more useful: structures that can transform in a pre-programmed way in response to a stimulus. There’s even a software called cadnano that allows us to design three-dimensional shapes like nano robots or drug delivery systems and use DNA to self-assemble those functional structures. And that’s called self-assembly, which is a process by which disordered parts build an ordered structure through only local interaction. But most importantly, we can use this same software for the design of nanoscale self-assembly systems and human scale self-assembly systems. The approach they use to print 3D structures using materials with different properties: “one that remained rigid and another that expanded up to 200% of its original volume.”

4D assembly

Image: Washington Post – Stratasys MIT Cubefolding Combined

The event in Rio de Janeiro with MIT scientist Skylar Tibbits who many think of the father of 4D self-assembly technology. In the future wearable technology will simply be adaptable to any situation that we find ourselves in, such as a shirt that has a hemline that will rise and fall depending on the event being attended. But Coelho wasn’t just talking about smart fashion that was aesthetically adaptable, he also sees a future where wearable technology actually guides us to the people that we are looking for.

Smart Watch

Image: 3Dprint.com

The device that Coelho showed off looked like a simple watch, but it did far more than tell time, it actually searches everyone else in the room wearing a similar device and notifies you when it found someone who you should talk to, or someone that you should avoid by glowing green or red.




3D and 4D Printing Will Allow Clothing and Consumer Products …3Dprint.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015