We’ve only just started to see 3D printing hit the market and the future has arrived with 4D printing. But 4D printing allow objects to self assemble, according to research by TED fellow Skylar Tibbits, from MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab.
In a collaboration with Stratasys’ Education & Research & Development department Tibbits utilized the Objet Connex multi-material capabilities of Stratasys 3D printers. The 3D printer creates object from standard materials and adds a layer made from a ‘smart’ material that can absorb water.
Once the object has been printed water is used to act as an energy source for the material to expand into a predefined and controlled shape.
“The rigid material becomes a structure and the other layer is the force that can start bending and twisting it,” said Mr Tibbits.
To allow objects like this to be designed, software maker Autodesk created a new piece of software called Cyborg which allows designers to create objects that self-assemble using ‘smart’ materials. These objects can be simulated and optimized so that they move as required after they are printed.
Iibbits explained at the TED conference in Los Angeles that these 4D printed objects could be used to install objects in hard to reach places, such as underground pipes, or eventually self-assembling furniture.