’4-D printing’ objects that morph based on stimuli like water and heat

"3D printing is so last year --- we're onto 4D printing now," say Australian researchers
April 26, 2015

Professor Marc in het Panhuis and PhD student Shannon Bakarich are building objects using “4-D printing,” where time is the fourth dimension (credit: University of Wollongong/Paul Jones)

Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong (UOW) are developing 3-D printed materials that morph into new structures under the influence of external stimuli such as water or heat. They refer to this process as “4-D printing,” where the fourth dimension is time.

The researchers are currently exploring a use in manufacturing a valve that actuates in response to its surrounding water’s temperature.

“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 in het Panhuis. “There’s no other assembly required. It’s an autonomous valve. It closes itself when it detects hot water.” Other applications include construction (a building that changes shape for example), medicine, automation and robotics.

The work is published in the journal Macromolecular Rapid Communications.

ACES Electromaterials | What is 4D printing?

Abstract of 4D Printing with Mechanically Robust, Thermally Actuating Hydrogels

A smart valve is created by 4D printing of hydrogels that are both mechanically robust and thermally actuating. The printed hydrogels are made up of an interpenetrating network of alginate and poly(N-isopropylacrylamide). 4D structures are created by printing the “dynamic” hydrogel ink alongside other static materials.