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4D Printing: Bringing Designs to Life

By Jami Gibson

“‘Some assembly required’ may soon be replaced with ‘just add water.’”

The opening quote from FW:Thinking’s YouTube video, 4D Printing is the Future of Design, is shockingly accurate. While 3D printing has been gaining momentum commercially for some time, visionaries at MIT are taking it one-step further, attempting to create products through, what they call, 4D printing. This entails using 3D printing to produce materials that can change shape over time, essentially reconfiguring itself.

One example narrated in the video suggests self-assembling furniture – material that morphs into a piece of furniture when made wet. Now that may seem like science fiction, but Skylar Tibbits, an MIT researcher, has already created a plastic sheeting material that, when submerged in water, shapes itself into a cube. If progress like that is already becoming a reality, imagine the endless possibilities it could create in the future if the technology can become more advanced. 4D printing could radically transform industries such as construction, medical equipment, and manufacturing! How would this technology change the economic development field?

Watch FW:Thinking’s short video below to discover, in simple terms, the basis of 4D printing and some innovative application ideas! Also, view Skylar Tibbits’ TED Talk about his work to make 4D printing a reality.

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