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The advent of 3-D printing brought on a number of innovations worthy of news coverage. Printers have created prosthetic hands, action figures, food, even blood vessels, simply by depositing layer after layer of different kinds of ink. Now a handful of engineers around the world are trying to push the boundaries one step further - by printing objects that can build themselves. It's called 4-D printing, and the fourth dimension in this case is time. Here's how it works: A 3-D printer with extremely high resolution uses materials that can respond to outside stimuli, like heat or light, as ink. The resulting structure can change, move or even assemble itself after it's been printed.
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What is 4-D printing aka 4th Dimension Printing?
A volumetric display device is a graphic display device that forms a visual representation of an object in three physical dimensions, as opposed to the planar image of traditional screens that simulate depth through a number of different visual effects. One definition offered by pioneers in the field is that volumetric displays create 3D imagery via the emission, scattering, or relaying of illumination from well-defined regions in (x,y,z) space. Though there is no consensus among researchers in the field, it may be reasonable to admit holographic and highly multiview displays to the volumetric display family if they do a reasonable job of projecting a three-dimensional light field within a volume. Most, if not all, volumetric 3D displays are either autostereoscopic or automultiscopic; that is, they create 3D imagery visible to the unaided eye. Note that some display technologists reserve the term "autostereoscopic" for flat-panel spatially multiplexed parallax displays, such as lenticular-sheet displays. However, nearly all 3D displays other than those requiring headwear, e.g. stereo goggles and stereo head-mounted displays, are autostereoscopic. Therefore, a very broad group of display architectures are properly deemed autostereoscopic.
Check out this video describing about 4-D Printing:
We imagine there’s a wide range of applications such as home appliances and products that can adapt to heat or moisture to improve comfort or add functionality. Childcare products that can react to humidity or temperature, for example, or clothes and footwear that optimise their form and function by reacting to changes in the environment. There are also uses for pre-programmed self-deforming materials in healthcare – researchers are printing biocompatible components that can be implanted in the human body. There are many more uses these could be put to if they can be manufactured to change shape and function without external intervention from a surgeon. Individually designed cardiac tubes are one good example.
This was a proof of concept for self-transforming materials, with an easy production process and an available suite of tools to customise and analyse the process. But even so, this is just scratching the surface – in the future we aim to produce larger structures which can handle more complex transformations, as well as smaller, miniaturised models which can be used in the body. While we found the deformations could be applied and reversed repeatedly, the material degraded after a while, so we need to improve its long-term durability. With 4D printing there’s a lot to play with. Now, that 3D printing captured our imagination, just think what adding time to the equation could do.
One potential application: You could make a fabric that changes color in response to light or changes permeability in response to temperature. It could provide a protective layer in the presence of toxic chemicals — that would be particularly useful for soldiers in combat.
Another application, Qi says, is useful in places where traditional manufacturing is impractical — like in space. You could make an instrument that's small and flat and expand it aboard a spacecraft.You can't make these products at home, at least not yet. The printers are still being tested by individual academic labs, along with the responsive inks. Balazs says integrating the two for reliable commercial use will probably take another three to five years. Until then, some researchers will be trying, as always, to take technology to the next level.
Applications of 4-D Printing
4D Printing: Solar Cells- Complex 3D structures are printed with light in a proprietary process that programs them to return to their original forms in a matter of seconds as soon as their temperature reaches a certain “sweet spot.” The research has been published in the online journal Scientific Reports under the title, “Multimaterial 4D Printing with Tailorable Shape Memory Polymers“.Fig 3 illustrates the workflow for fabricating a multi-material structure based on a photo-curable shape memory polymer network.
4D Printing: Medical Applications- The technology could also be used to create drug capsules that release medicine at the first sign of an infection. Researchers say 4D printing technology could have additional medical applications such as stents that expand after being exposed to heat. The work derives from a project to develop high-performance 3D printed carbon fibre composites.
4D Printing: Transportation- According to an article in MIT Technology Review, Airbus is interested in similar programmable carbon fibre composites. Components and structures made of them could change shape in response to different environmental changes in temperature, air pressure, or other factors. They could replace hinges, or even motors and hydraulic actuators, making planes simpler and lighter in weight. Interestingly, Airbus mentions "morphing materials," as well as 3D printing, as a future technology that could be used in the Concept Cabin of its Concept Plane.
Folding structures- 3D printed shape-shifting structures that can fold and unfold themselves, or expand and contract in size, when prompted by changes in electricity or heat. The primary shapes they created were printed with shape-memory polymer inks developed by the team using a direct-ink writing 3D printing process. The ink is made from soybean oil and additional co-polymers, plus carbon nano fibers.
When a complex item is created using 3-D printing, the item is printed in parts that must be assembled. The purpose of 4-D printing is to reduce the total time needed to create a finished product by printing with materials that are capable of changing form or self-assembling with minimal human interaction. The "D" in 4-D printing stands for time -- more specifically, time saved
The materials in a 4-D printed item are chosen to respond to a certain stimulus such as the transfer of kinetic energy from one medium to another. In such an example, the particles in printed material would start to bond together and change form when heat is introduced. Another approach to 4-D printing involves programming physical and biological materials to change shape and change properties. 4-D printing is closely associated with nanotechnology, a branch of engineering that is also called molecular manufacturing. While 4-D printing is still very much in the experimental phase, it has the potential to eventually save a lot more than just time by opening the door for new kinds of assemble-at-home products. Because unassembled items created with 4-D printing would be flatter and easier to ship in large quantities, they would also save on transportation costs. The recipient would simply introduce the needed stimulus and assemble the end product without requiring directions. So The next-gen printing, as well as the future is here! Don't you guys think so? Do REPLY your suggestions as comments below!
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