4D Printing: Shapeshifting Architecture

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A team at the Wyss Institute and Harvard SEAS has developed a new micro-scale printing method to create transformable objects. These “4D-printed” objects go a step beyond 3D printing to incorporate a fourth dimension–time.
The method was inspired by the way plants change shape over time in response to environmental stimuli. This orchid-shaped structure is printed with a hydro gel composite ink containing aligned cellulose fibrils, which enable an-isotropic swelling. A proprietary mathematical model developed by the team precisely predicts how the fibrils will swell in water.

After printing, the 4D orchid is immersed in water to activate its shape transformation.

This remarkable advancement of technology allows creation of any product decreasing their movement restriction and escalating their dynamics. Scientists claimed that integration with other processes would help in smart autonomous robotics in textile industry, biomedical devices, drug delivery and tissue engineering to produce more efficient results. This work was supported by funding from the Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

Matsumoto, one of the members claimed that their mathematical model predefines the printing pathways required to achieve the desired shape. He added that their program, based on a proprietary algorithm can tilt the curvature both discretely and continuously giving the user more control on the product. They also managed to tackle the “inverse problem” and thereby predicted what tool path gives the desired shape.

Credit: A.S. Gladman, E. Matsumoto, L.K. Sanders, and J.A. Lewis / Wyss Institute at Harvard University

For more information, please visit: http://wyss.harvard.edu/viewpressrele…

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