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3-D Printing Is So Last Year! We're Onto 4-D Printing Now

3-D Printing Is So Last Year! We're Onto 4-D Printing Now image
September 5, 2015 | Source: nanowerk, nanowerk.com

4-D printing is unfolding as technology that takes 3D printing to an entirely new level.

The fourth dimension is time, shape shifting in fact, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong is helping to set the pace in the next revolution in additive manufacturing (Macromolecular Rapid Communications, "4-D Printing with Mechanically Robust, Thermally Actuating Hydrogels").

Just as the extraordinary capabilities of 3-D printing have begun to infiltrate industry and the family home, researchers have started to develop 3-D printed materials that morph into new structures, post production, under the influence of external stimuli such as water or heat - hence the name, 4-D printing. So, as in 3-D 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.