4D printing breaks the door and is more "live" than 3D printing

As soon as 3D printing appeared, it became a hot, technical update iteration, and people were always overwhelmed. Nowadays, when 3D printing is still ready to go, 4D printing has broken the door and jumped into people's eyes.

4D is a more "D" than 3D printing, the time dimension. 4D printed matter is no longer stationary, but intelligent and time-varying.

These static prints may "live" as time changes, or under the trigger of certain conditions. With this interesting new technology, perhaps in the future, the printed flower can bloom gradually over time, and a crutches on hand may automatically open into an umbrella when it rains. It will add a lot of new fun.

Smart 4D printing technology

4D printing technology was originally proposed by researchers at MIT (MIT), the concept is to add time to the 3D basis - programmable materials can be combined into presets over time under specific conditions form. Materials in 4D printing are materials that change shape in response to external or environmental factors, such as water, air, or temperature changes.

In a speech by TED (the technology, entertainment, design abbreviation in English, technology, entertainment, design, is a private non-profit organization in the United States, the organization is known for its TED conference), MIT The head of the study, Skyra Tibitz, showed how items printed in "smart materials" automatically fold into a box, and another piece of material that automatically shrinks into the shape of the "MIT" letter - two 4D prints The line that came out was nothing special at first glance. When it was put in the water, there was an incredible change: a line slowly curled and deformed, and then the word "MIT" was automatically formed; another line, Like a life, you stand up, fold, and become a cube. Although these two changes are pre-set by Tibitz, it seems that the material has self-awareness because the entire process of change has no artificial involvement.

These are all thought to be the first time researchers have embedded the process of deformation into the material itself. In this video by Tibitz, the line is actually a multi-string PVC composite tube that is self-deforming in the water, without the printer being used, and water as a source of energy.

“You design the product and print it out, and it can evolve. It's like implanting wisdom into the material.” Tibits said, “It's like a robot without wires and motors.” 4D printing technology will create An object that can change after being printed, and they can self-adjust. The technology was developed by the MIT self-assembly lab in collaboration with 3D printer manufacturer Objet Connex.

Programming 4D printed shapes

How to make the prints deform independently? In fact, the two lines that Tibitz showed were mainly composed of two materials. One is a high molecular polymer that can stretch to twice its original length in water; the other can remain fixed in water. When modeling with a computer, Tibitz set that once the synthetic material comes into contact with water, the part of the ductility is automatically deformed, together with the fixed part, to form the previously designed shape.

Based on the original 3D printing technology , the researchers complete the modeling through software, input the desired shape into the material, and the deformed material will be deformed according to the preset settings. However, current 4D printing requires external energy to stimulate internal changes, such as the model shown by Tibitz, using water as a trigger.

Recently, according to foreign media reports, the researchers found that using shape-memory, heat-sensitive materials, 4D printing technology can create complex self-folding structures. The technology was developed by the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Singapore University of Technology. It creates 3D structures that allow the flat material to automatically fold itself continuously or into a tube for shipping. The components are sensitive to temperature, humidity or light and can accurately synthesize spatial structures, expandable medical devices, robots, toys and various other structures.

The research team expects this technology to be widely used. For example, an unmanned aircraft, the original design mission is to cruise, you can dive after deformation. For example, the original design of the 3D component is flat or tubular, and the purpose is to facilitate transportation and can now be transformed into other desired 3D structures.

Or important position in future life

In the eyes of many people, it is useless to make 4D printing cool. However, they are not allowed to occupy an important position in later life. The wood and carbon fibers made by the team of Tibitz can be said to incorporate sensor, logic and output technology, and are expected to change everything from airplanes to clothes to paperback furniture.

In the self-assembly lab, Tibitz and two collaborators, Christopher Gublan and Eric Demene, studied clothes that could be deformed in response to weather changes. Such a laboratory, as its name suggests, is focused on making things self-assemblable. For example, it develops a series of small wooden boards that become elephant toys when exposed to moisture. And think about it, in the future, you will drag a pile of plates from IKEA, no need to laboriously assemble, or allow you to touch the water or through other means of touch, you can assemble it yourself.

A team is trying to use this technology to make smarter racing tails. When the driver turns, the heat generated by the friction triggers the deformation of the heat-sensitive material in the carbon fiber. As a result, the empennage is deformed to optimize the aerodynamics and achieve faster speeds. In addition, the same carbon fiber can also be used to improve the efficiency of jet engines and reduce carbon emissions.

The focus of Tibbitz's research is not on the use of high-end equipment, but on leveraging the intelligence of his team to look at materials in new ways.

“We are used to making materials available to us, but there are still many processes in the material properties.” Tibits said that to make the materials widely available, improvements are needed, as well as regulatory approval. But he believes that the most important thing is for engineers to change their perception of programmability.

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