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Brief Published: 7 Mar 2013

3D Printing enters the Fourth Dimension


Researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) are developing a technology for 3D-printed objects to “transform and adapt” to their surroundings: ie, become 4D. 

During the unveiling last week at California’s TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference, MIT's Skylar Tibbits demonstrated a 3D-printed plastic straw, which folded itself when placed in water. Achieved by using a combination of conventional plastic and a reactive “smart” material in the printing process, this technology could have a radical impact on future manufacturing and infrastructure.  

Imagine if objects such as vehicles or buildings could react to the world around them? It could prove especially suitable for areas affected by adverse weather or natural disasters. For example, pipes could expand with increased water pressure. 

The project is the work of MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab, which researches “self-assembly technologies". The technology is inspired by reactive construction within the natural world, and the team is currently working on versions that respond to heat, vibration, sound or electricity. 

For more, see the Stylus reports Learning from Natural Systems and 3D Printing: From Gimmick to Game Changer

Self-Assembly Lab