4D Printing; it’s really cool


4D printing is here.  What is 4D printing you ask?  4D printing produces a 3 dimensional object with a time component.  Once produced, objects change over time with the application of water, heat or light. 

Lest it sound impractical or even fictive, consider this quote from a great Discovery.com article by Evan Ackerman entitled:  “4D Printer Makes Shape Shifting Wood:”   “Such “programmable materials” may one day mean that you can buy flat-pack furniture at IKEA, take it home, spray it with a garden hose and then watch it assemble itself. We don’t even have to speculate: MIT is working on this exact thing.”


Programmable Wood by Skylar Tibbits

Self-Assembly Lab – MIT

The authors explain that that wood naturally warps with the addition of water.  So, “with a comprehensive understanding of how the material behaves, along with computer models, you can 3-D print a piece of artificial wood that’s been “pre-programmed” — using carefully constructed layers of various thicknesses and grain directions — to warp itself from flat into exactly the shape you want. Just add water.”

MIT is working on creating programmable materials, even textiles that can change over time into pre-planned shapes.  The authors ponder a consumer buying a flat piece of cloth that with the application of water turns into a cowboy hat.

The potential applications for play products are mind boggling.  This one bears watching as how we play and how we live continue to change at even faster rates and in more bizarre directions.

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