The 3D printer already lets users print simple objects at home, but now researchers are now working on developing 4D printing, using “smart” materials that can change shape by themselves.
Researchers are developing 'Smart' materials by combining different types of plastics and fibers that can change shape by themselves when they come into contact with stimuli such as heat or water. This new technology that allows objects to be designed in this way so they can expand or fold into pre-designed forms after being printed, has been dubbed 4D printing.
Jesse Louis-Rosenberg, from Nervous System design studio in Somerville, Massachusetts, stated that he hoped to use the 4D printing technology to create a dress that could be printed in compact form then unfolded.
The technology will help you create a dress designed to fit perfectly by scanning the customers body. The dress would be created with a series of tessellating segments and a computer model would then compress the design into the smallest possible space to fit inside a 3D printer. The customer would just need to simply download the design, print it and unfurl it to have a ready dress at home.
Skylar Tibbits, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is leading the ground-breaking research with Stratasys, a digital manufacturing company in the 4D printing. "We asked if we could print things that change shape and change properties to behave in precise programmed ways. We call it 4D because it adds time [considered the fourth dimension], rather than printing static objects," Tibbits said.