SoloPoint Insights

4D Printing Advancements

Right now, we are all beginning to see just how useful 3D printing can be in many different sectors, but a new team of researchers promises to take us to an entirely new dimension. Three researchers are teaming up to discover just how 4D printing will work and the potential is enormous.

The three researchers, Anna C. Balazs, Jennifer A. Lewis and Ralph G. Nuzzo, the G. L. Clark Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois, have released some startling findings from their research. They are working on a technique at the nano and micro level of 3D printing that will allow materials to actively change their shape in response to their environment. For example, creating a coating that would change its shape in different humidity levels to protect against rust and corrosion. Another example cited by the team included creating camoflauge patterns that could change as the environment changes or even protect the wearer against shrapnel.

Thanks to a grant from the United States Army Research Office, these new advances may soon be possible.

Anna C. Balazs, the Robert v. d. Luft Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering stated, “Rather than construct a static material or one that simply changes its shape, we’re proposing the development of adaptive, biomimetic composites that reprogram their shape, properties, or functionality on demand, based upon external stimuli. By integrating our abilities to print precise, three-dimensional, hierarchically-structured materials; synthesize stimuli-responsive components; and predict the temporal behavior of the system, we expect to build the foundation for the new field of 4D printing.”

By working with 3D printing, researchers now have the capability to shape an object as its created, to bring in another dimenson.

Jennifer A. Lewis, the Hansjorg Wyss Professor of Biologically Inspired Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences explained, “If you use materials that possess the ability to change their properties or shape multiple times, you don’t have to build for a specific, one-time use. Composites that can be reconfigured in the presence of different stimuli could dramatically extend the reach of 3D printing.”

Ralph Nuzzo added, “The ability to create one fabric that responds to light by changing its color, and to temperature by altering its permeability, and even to an external force by hardening its structure, becomes possible through the creation of responsive materials that are simultaneously adaptive, flexible, lightweight, and strong. It’s this ‘complicated functionality’ that makes true 4D printing a game changer.”

These advances are big news for engineering students and those already in the field of 3D and 4D printing. There is plenty of room for expansion of this technology, and it will definitely have an impact on the future of our world, whether you are involved in mechanical engineering, automotive engineering or even building technologies. For those going into engineering school, these new advances are opening up several career possibilities.

Want more information about exciting careers in this field of engineering? Ask the experts at Solopoint for help today!