4D printing – a technology for the future
Around 30 years after the advent of 3D printing technology, whose expansion in areas of application and materials continues unabated, the rise of a new dimension of additive manufacturing is already becoming apparent.
The term 4D printing refers to the approach of printing an object in 3D and at the same time with the ability to transform to provide, that is, to let it change over time. This is done by embedding a program directly into the materials, which is able to extend the length, width and height of the objects under the influence of temperature, light or other external influences.
4D printing versus 3D printing – what’s the difference?
What exactly does a “D” mean in the name of the technology can be illustrated as follows.
3D printing is about building a 2D structure layer by layer, from top to bottom, and thus generating a volume from a surface. A third dimension is thus added to the 2D structure commonly used in printing.
4D printing takes this model one step further by adding time as a fourth dimension to the 3D structure. Thus, the key breakthrough in 4D printing over 3D printing is its built-in ability to time to change.
This is how 4D printing works in detail
First of all, a 4D model is made just like a regular 3D model. The only difference from 3D printing is that 4D printing technology uses programmable materials that change shape when exposed to light, water, or heat.
On the other hand, these 3D models are also printed with a fixed structure, which they basically retain with all changes in shape. In contrast to the static structure of a classic 3D model, one speaks of a dynamic, intelligent structure for 4D models.
The benefits of 4D printing
An important benefit of this technology is the ability to ‘fold’ objects that are too large to 3D print in the desired shape for the printing process, only to ‘unfold’ or otherwise enlarge them afterwards.
At the same time, 4D printing technology is of course also revolutionizing the possibilities in the field of applications. We are only just beginning to tap this potential.
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