4D Printing: 3-D printed structures “remember” their shapes

4D Printing: 3-D printed structures “remember” their shapes


Engineers from MIT and Singapore University
of Technology and Design (SUTD) are using light to print three-dimensional structures
that “remember” their original shapes. Even after being stretched, twisted, and bent
at extreme angles, the structures sprang back to their original forms within seconds of
being heated to a certain temperature “sweet spot.” The team printed a variety of structures,
including coils, flowers, and the miniature Eiffel tower. These structures could be stretched to three
times their original length without breaking. When they were exposed to heat within the
range of 40 C to 180 C, they snapped back to their original shapes within seconds. The process of 3-D printing shape-memory materials
can also be thought of as 4-D printing, as the structures are designed to change over
the fourth dimension — time. The MIT’s new method not only enables 4-D
printing at the micron-scale, but also suggests recipes to print shape-memory polymers that
can be stretched 10 times larger than those printed by commercial 3-D printers. This will advance 4-D printing into a wide
variety of practical applications, including biomedical devices, deployable aerospace structures,
and shape-changing photovoltaic solar cells.

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