Introducing the 4D printer

The development of the 4D printer has been in the works for quite some time and now that its done, the printing world will never remain the same.

An engineer at the ACES labs

A team of engineers at the ARC Center of Excellence for Electromaterials Science have developed a 4D printer.

The new technology builds objects that can change based on the physics of the materials used. For example, extruded objects in multiple materials can be used to build a valve that shuts down when hot water hits it, or a working mechanism that can be printed out in one piece.

“So, as in 3D printing, a structure is built up layer by layer into the desired shape, but these new materials are able to transform themselves from one shape into another, much like a child’s Transformer toy,” said the team in a press release.

The objects printed with the 4D printer are essentially mechanisms that are printed as one continuous process. Just as conductive parts can be laid inside of a 3D printed object, these new printers can lay down filaments that are heat-sensitive, pressure-sensitive, even those that can move over time.

“The cool thing about it is, is it’s a working functioning device that you just pick up from the printer,” said ACES Professor Marc Panhuis. “There’s no other assembly required.”

The developers hope these printers will usher in a new era of “soft” robotics that can move by mimicking biological organisms or by inflating or deflating rubber parts.

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