What is 4D Printing?
“Take multi-material 3D printing – so you can deposit multiple materials – and 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… So you completely print this part, and it can transform into something else.” Skylar Tibbits, TED2013
What makes the transformation and self-assembly possible is the breakthrough development of a new material used in multi-material 3D printing by Stratasys Objet Connex 3D Printers. The self-folding material is actually composed of two base materials – one that is water expandable and the second that is not water expandable. The water expandable material, which is still in the R&D phase, is able to absorb water and to be programmed to behave and transform in a specific way. It is a highly hydrophilic material that absorbs water molecules when immersed and can change its volume by more than 150% relative to its dry state. When this material is coupled with the static material it can drive predictable shape transformation of the multi-material 3D printed object. Both materials are printed simultaneously on a Stratasys Objet Connex 3D Printer.
Tibbits and his team at the MIT Self Assembly Lab hope to continue to develop the capabilities of 4D printing and scale it up to the point where it can be used for real-world production and manufacturing. Stratasys works closely with academic researchers and thought leaders to create radical changes in the design and engineering process with unique, multi-material technology.