Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Forget the 3D Printer: 4D Printing Could Change Everything
Smithsonian ^ | MAY 16, 2014 | Randy Rieland

Posted on 05/19/2014 12:46:57 PM PDT by nickcarraway

Scientists at MIT are using a new technique that could print responsive objects—from water pipes to sneakers—that adapt to their surroundings on their own.

These days, 3D printing seems to be at the core of most new new research ventures, whether it's developing ways to print entire meals or recreating facial features to repair a patient's face.

But Skylar Tibbits wants to up the ante: He's hoping 4D printing will be the thing of the not-so-far future.

The name for his concept, Tibbits admits, was a bit lighthearted at first. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tibbits and researchers from the firms Stratasys and Autodesk Inc were trying to come up with a way of describing the objects they were creating on 3D printers—objects that not only could be printed, but thanks to geometric code, could also later change shape and transform on their own.

The name stuck, and now the process they developed—which turns code into "smart objects" that can self-assemble or change shape when confronted with a change in its environment—could very well pop up in a number of industries, from construction to athletic wear.

“Normally, we print things and we think they’re done,” Tibbits says. “That the final output and then we assemble them. But we want them to be able to transform and change shape over time. And we want them to assemble themselves.”

Tibbits, a research scientist at MIT, was given the go-ahead last year to establish what’s known as the university's Self-Assembly Lab. The challenge was to see how smart researchers could make an object without relying on sensors or chips; how fluid they could make something without wires or motors.

As luck would have it, when Tibbits shared this dilemma with acquaintances at Stratasys, a leading 3D printing firm, they told him the company had developed a printing material that expands by 150 percent when placed in water. It sounded promising. But the real question was how to bring precision to that transformation so an object could unfold, curl and form specific angles instead of just swelling up like a bloated sponge.

Tibbits’ answer: Geometry.

With a 3D printer, an operator plugs in a virtual blueprint for an object, which the printer uses to construct the final product layer by layer. To make something "4D," though, Tibbits feeds the printer a precise geometric code based on the object's own angles and dimensions but also measurements that dictate how it should change shape when confronted with outside forces such as water, movement or a change in temperature.

In short, the code sets the direction, the number of times and the angles at which a material can bend and curl. When that object is confronted with a change in environment, it can be stimulated to change shape. Pipes, for instance, could programmed to expand or shrink to help move water; bricks could shift to accommodate more or less stress on a given wall.

Tibbits demonstrated the concept of 4D printing at a TED talk last year, during which he showed how a single strand of printed material could be programmed to fold, on its own, into the word “MIT.”

(See a video of that demo below)

The shapes of things to come

At face value, it's a concept that's very cool. But when can we expect to see these kinds of transformations out in the real world?

In some cases, they're already happening. Tibbits points out that in nanotechnology, scientists have been able to program physical and biological materials to change their shapes and properties—such as using DNA to self-assemble nanorobots.

Making this happen on a human scale, he concedes, is much more challenging, particularly in more traditional industries, such as construction. But Tibbits says at least one company is interested is seeing how 4D programming can be applied to infrastructure. There's potential, he says, in using self-assembling materials in disaster areas or extreme environments where conventional construction is not feasible or too expensive. For instance, he sees a future for what he calls “adaptive infrastructure” in space.

Tibbits say his lab is working closely with a number of industry partners on ways they could incorporate the 4D concept into their businesses. As for where we might see transforming products on the shelves, Tibbits envisions innovation in furniture or sportswear. He offers the example of sneakers that could change shape and function in response to how they're being used.

“If I start running,” he said, "[the sneakers] should adapt to being running shoes. If I play basketball, they adapt to support my ankles more. If I go on grass, they should grow cleats or become waterproof if it’s raining. It’s not like the shoe would understand that you’re playing basketball, of course, but it can tell what kind of energy or what type of forces are being applied by your foot. It could transform based on pressure. Or it could be moisture or temperature change. “

Multi-dimensional thinking

Here’s some other recent developments in 3D and 4D printing:

Army maneuvers: The U.S. Army has given a grant to Harvard University, University of Pittsburgh and University of Illinois to explore ways the military could use self-assembling objects, raising the possibility of shelters or bridges that spring into shape.

Just don't tell anyone your makeup came right off the printer: Harvard student Grace Choi has created a prototype for a 3D printer called "Mink" that is designed to let users choose any color imaginable and then actually print out makeup in that hue.

All in a day's work: In China, an engineering company used 3D printers to build 10 one-story houses in a day. The printers, which were 33 feet wide and 22 feet high, used a mix of cement and construction waste to build the walls layer by layer.

And for more on the potential of 4D printing, check out this video:


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 3dprinter; 3dprinting; 4dprinter; 4dprinting; hitech

1 posted on 05/19/2014 12:46:57 PM PDT by nickcarraway
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway
Does it look anything like this? (All angles are right angles, BTW):


2 posted on 05/19/2014 12:49:52 PM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

Anyone who read science fiction back in the 1960s knows that the 4th dimension is time. Unless the produced objects enable time travel, they cannot be described as 4D.


3 posted on 05/19/2014 12:50:51 PM PDT by Vigilanteman (Obama: Fake black man. Fake Messiah. Fake American. How many fakes can you fit in one Zer0?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway; AFPhys; AD from SpringBay; ADemocratNoMore; aimhigh; AnalogReigns; archy; ...
3-D Printer Ping!

Some day her prints will come…

4 posted on 05/19/2014 12:51:14 PM PDT by null and void (When was the last time you heard anyone say: "It's a free country"?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

Kind of like the jacket in “Back to the Future” that drys itself when wet.


5 posted on 05/19/2014 12:51:46 PM PDT by AU72
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

no matter how hard I try, I can’t really imagine what a 4D object would look like.


6 posted on 05/19/2014 12:52:21 PM PDT by MNDude
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: MNDude

I can imagine a 38DD.......................


7 posted on 05/19/2014 12:58:31 PM PDT by Red Badger (Soon there will be another American Civil War. Will make the first one seem like a Tea Party........)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman
Anyone who read science fiction back in the 1960s knows that the 4th dimension is time. Unless the produced objects enable time travel, they cannot be described as 4D.

These "4D" objects change across time.

8 posted on 05/19/2014 12:59:28 PM PDT by Talisker (One who commands, must obey.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

If only Escher had had this technology to play with.


9 posted on 05/19/2014 12:59:54 PM PDT by CrazyIvan (I lost my phased plasma rifle in a tragic hovercraft accident.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman

Maybe the printer has a timer on it.


10 posted on 05/19/2014 1:00:27 PM PDT by cripplecreek (Remember the River Raisin.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: AU72
Nano particle additions to cotton fiber have been used to create jeans that shed water and remain dry.

/johnny

11 posted on 05/19/2014 1:02:24 PM PDT by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman

They do travel in time. Forward. Like the rest of us. ;-)


12 posted on 05/19/2014 1:08:22 PM PDT by SoothingDave
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman

“Anyone who read science fiction back in the 1960s knows that the 4th dimension is time. Unless the produced objects enable time travel, they cannot be described as 4D.”

Only SF writers who don’t know anything about science. They should have read Flatland instead of A Wrinkle in Time.

We live in 3 spatial dimensions and 1 temporal dimension. A 4th spatial dimension would add another set of points (W,X,Y,Z) like the tesseract displayed earlier in the thread.


13 posted on 05/19/2014 1:10:10 PM PDT by Azeem (There are four boxes to be used in the defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury and ammo.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: JRandomFreeper

I see 3-D printing as just one small area in the ever expanding world of technology. A lathe was needed to make the printer nozzle. Microcode and computers on a chip to control it. Hobbyist and robotics fan-boy websites, as well as thousands of youtube videos reveal amazing things people do in their garages and dens. 3-D printing is sort of an adjustable wrench in the larger scheme, as amazing as the milling machine or silicon lithography when they first came out.


14 posted on 05/19/2014 1:25:13 PM PDT by SpaceBar
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: SpaceBar
I've got a lathe and milling machine. I can make 1600s era firearms just fine with them, thankyouverymuch. But 3-d printing really opens up fabrication possibilities that my standard subtractive technology can't do, like complex internal structures.

Printer nozzles can be printed. Just like I can build another lathe with my existing lathe. But you have to have the first one.

/johnny

15 posted on 05/19/2014 1:38:10 PM PDT by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

It prints in the past?


16 posted on 05/19/2014 1:39:05 PM PDT by AppyPappy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman

i thought 4 d was the power for one solid object to pass thru another.


17 posted on 05/19/2014 1:44:33 PM PDT by old gringo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

Pshaw. I’m waiting for the 5-D printer to come out.


18 posted on 05/19/2014 1:47:02 PM PDT by AuH2ORepublican (If a politician won't protect innocent babies, what makes you think that he'll defend your rights?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Red Badger

ha! comment of the day!


19 posted on 05/19/2014 1:51:26 PM PDT by MNDude
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

Dumb science journalism. It’s a shape-changing (bendable) 3d object.


20 posted on 05/19/2014 1:56:47 PM PDT by Freeping Since 2001 (Since 2001. Seriously.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gMCZFHv9v8


21 posted on 05/19/2014 2:17:15 PM PDT by Hotlanta Mike ("Governing a great nation is like cooking a small fish - too much handling will spoil it." Lao Tzu)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Vigilanteman

Aha! If M-theory is right, there are 11 dimensions. Pick any four.


22 posted on 05/19/2014 2:49:29 PM PDT by LibWhacker
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: MNDude

Soon I can print one and stop ‘imagining’......................


23 posted on 05/19/2014 2:49:55 PM PDT by Red Badger (Soon there will be another American Civil War. Will make the first one seem like a Tea Party........)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: MrB

Being that the interior cube is smaller than the exterior, the angles between the exterior cube faces and the support rods for the interior cube cannot be right angles.


24 posted on 05/19/2014 2:56:49 PM PDT by MortMan (Avoid temporary variables and strange women.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway

I wonder if you could combine this tech with nanotechnology and wifi or Bluetooth. To go with the shoe example, you use a smart watch to send a signal to the nano-robots in your shoe that you’re going to play basketball, so the nano-robots apply the proper stimulation to get the shoe to change to the appropriate shape.


25 posted on 05/19/2014 3:01:31 PM PDT by Future Snake Eater (CrossFit.com)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: MortMan

But they are 90’s in 4 dimensions. And the interior cube is the same size.
As an analogy, think about drawing a cube on a piece of paper.
The angles on the paper are not rt angles, but in three dims they would be.


26 posted on 05/20/2014 4:26:54 AM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: MrB

The cube angles are right angles. But the diagonal supports going from one corner of the outer cube to the corresponding corner of the inner cube are not. My remark is about the angles on the supports.

The inner cube, based on the drawing, cannot be the same size as the outer. The inner’s 6 walls are presented as being inside the outer cube’s walls. For perspective to be in play, at least one wall would have to be outside the outer cube.


27 posted on 05/20/2014 5:28:54 AM PDT by MortMan (Avoid temporary variables and strange women.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: MortMan

That’s only one way (and the easiest) to represent a hypercube.
Another way is to envision two 3d cubes, “open” the corner of one and place it “inside” the other, and connect all the corresponding corners. The resulting 8 cubes, as is in the prior illustration, have 2 that look “normal” and 6 that are skewed due to the down-dimensioning representation in 3d.

Read “And he built a crooked house” by Heinlein for more detail.


28 posted on 05/20/2014 5:53:35 AM PDT by MrB (The difference between a Humanist and a Satanist - the latter admits whom he's working for)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 27 | View Replies]

To: MrB; MortMan
Also good to keep in mind is that this object, if moved along the 4th axis through the 3D space you are observing would appear as a point and grow to a full sized cube then shrink again to a point before vanishing from your view. To your perception, it would always be a cubic object or a point.

Fight the Free Sh☭t Nation

29 posted on 05/20/2014 6:15:59 AM PDT by Mycroft Holmes (<= Mash name for HTML Xampp PHP C JavaScript primer. Programming for everyone.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson