4D printing? Future is here. - Termantino

4D printing? Future is here. 958

In our advanced programmable era, we can achieve anything. Fictional elements are already turning into the factual matter. Dreams are becoming a real thing. Our fantasies are just an inception of invention ideas.

Image result for bmw 4d printing
BMW VISION NEXT 100-hyper-futuristic car. source:pinterest

3D years is past and now we are looking forward to its successor technology 4D printing. The next level of 3D printing is moving into the next dimension i.e. 4th dimension. 4D printing is also known as adaptive additive manufacturing, active origami( Japanese art of paper folding), bioprinting and shape morphing system.


In a partnership between MIT’s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Self-Assembly Lab and Stratasys education and R&D departments, a new process called 4D printing is being developed.

Imagine owning a magic brush that could produce objects from images.  You are in luck because the modern 3D printers are capable of doing exactly that -providing a form to anything you can imagine. But now scientists are working towards adding a fourth dimension-time-to these printed objects, blurring the border between fact and fiction. Usually, 3D printers related objects by printing multiple layers of a plastic or alloy based ink, one over another. Now, scientists are adding to this multistep method to code flexibility in the printed objects. The technique is quite simple: instead of using a single printing ink, use a combination of different materials. Stacked together, the layers of different matter behave differently. While some expand on heating, other maintain their structure.The object then would alter its shape with change in temperature. For instance, if you print a 4D vase sensitive to the temperature you could stretch it, cause the base to expand or even change its color-all by a minor rise or fall in mercury.

The researchers are exploring this technique with respect to other factors like pressure and moisture. Soon you could perhaps buy fabric that changes with the season, shoes that alter grip based on activity, wall paint that will reflect sunlight, pipes that would self-assemble in response to pressure changes, even tires that will morph into a robust version on rough terrain. Scientists are making use of a special material called shape memory polymers for 4D designing. Usually, such polymers exhibit higher flexibility at increased temperatures. So immediately after the polymer is cast into its mould, the researchers fold them into desired shapes and leave it to cool- like making a flower out of play dough and allowing it to dry. But here’s the cool part: these polymers keep the memory of their cast version intact and revert to their original forms when subjected to a higher temperature. This shape switch is the key to 4D printing. Now, this may sound extremely complicated but when guided by precise software, the structure and its multiple contortions are always predetermined.

Only recently, studies revealed that spider web silk bears properties similar to an optical fiber. Being a protein, it can also react to changes in temperature. pressure, and its pH, unlike glass. By impregnating such polymers or live cells with biocompatible ink, scientists can code for self-healing tissue and whole organs that could persist within the body.

Image result for biocompatible ink
biocompatible ink. source:europawire.eu

The technology is creating ripples even in its infancy. In August 2015, scientists at the Hangzhou Dianzi University, China, invented their own 3D printer which could print human tissue.

The new printing material “Flink”, which stands for “functional living ink”, is recently presented the technique in the journal Science Advances.

There is yet another way in which 4D printing could save lives. Use of self-repairing assault drones to reduce the loss of life in case of war. 4D printing is also being explored with respect to robotics, drug delivery, and biosensors, but once its true potential is unleashed the applications would be limitless.

A case in point is the concept for a 4D printed BMW car unveiled by the  German automobile giant on its centennial (100th) anniversary celebrations. The message is loud and clear-4D printing has arrived and is all set to create shape-altering cars, power generating garments, everything else that yoiu ever imagined and ton of other stuff that you never imagined.


  1. What is 4d printing and its 4th dimension-fossbytes.com
  2. 4D printing- Wikipedia.
  3. Feature image-sculpteo.com


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