Skylar Tibbits 4D Printing

Are you ready for this …. 4D Printing is on the way.

By February 27, 2013. 3D Printing, 3DP Applications, Design, Featured, Industry Insights, News, Research

Skylar Tibbits – not a name to forget, above and beyond its originality. This is the guy that is introducing the world to 4D printing. Yep, you read that right: FOUR  – it wasn’t a slip of the finger on the keyboard.

So, I’ll confess, I’m writing this post having not fully wrapped my head around the concepts involved. I’m hoping the writing process will go some way to helping with that, but we’ll see where we end up …..

Skylar is an architect, designer and computer scientist that is currently researching self-assembly technologies at MIT’s new Self-Assembly Lab — ultimately for large-scale structures in the physical environment. His recent presentation at TED2013 introduced 4D printing, and, if I am getting this right [Ed: feel free to challenge or correct at any point], the fourth dimension is the programming for self-assembly of materials into new structures, with the original 3 dimensions printed in the usual way on an Objet Connex machine using digital materials.

Apparently the Connex technology is central to the research – no other 3D printing process is viable with the fourth dimension. This is because the Objet Connex is still the only 3D printing process that works with multi material technology meaning that they (the materials) can be ‘programmed’ with different properties at the particle level within the 3D geometry, so that when they are submersed in water the different water-absorbing properties can thus be harnessed and subsequently activate the self-assembly process.

If you’re struggling with that – try watching the video. It helps ……. a little.

4D Printing: Cube Self-Folding Strand from Skylar Tibbits on Vimeo.

A full interview with Skylar, along with fashion designer Suzanne Lee, can be read on the TED blog.

Source: Objet Blog

  • johnschneider89

    It makes sense, and reminds me a little bit of LaserOrigami:

  • Great stuff!

    The breakthrough of real applicative import could be when temperature differentials are the trigger variable: print an item in a material that cools slowly, and as it does tensile contractions transmutate the form into the end design.

    For example, 3Dprint a compact framework on a 15x15x15cm output, that unfolds into a much larger frame work. Kind of ‘auto-un-compact-able self-assembly.’

    Dual and triple extruder home 3Dprinters could work well with this: the joints of that facilitate the form change in one material (of the nature that Objet can produce), connected to the frame itself another (Laywoo wood?) and even, on a triple extruder, the potential for adding carbomorph.

    The volumetrics of the print output would be the limiting factor, but the potential for making much larger structures for a small print bed are possibly there?


  • realityinc

    Autobots assemble!

  • “4d” is a bad name for this, and very unscientific. The concept itself is cool. I can see practical applications.

    • Totally agree actually. Having thought about this (at some length) the name is probably wrong for the work itself and for the 3D printing sector. It makes for a great headline, but also for massive confusion.

      Already there are people claiming it is the “next big thing” and comments like “forget 3D printing….” – none of which is going to help anyone! But such is the world we live in. I dare say this will quieten down, at least until it can be applied in a significant way and as ever, it will be all about managing expectations.

      • Atle K

        4D is using “time” as the fourth dimension, the printed device unfolds to something else after it’s completed. I think that’s an awesome concept! It’s very (?) difficult to program something who doesn’t exist right now, but in the future. The design imply that I programs/design a finished printed device while the program figures out (by backtracking) how to print it “uncompleted”. I think that the name of “4D” fits fine. :)

  • O great post. Like it:) The next big thing may very well be 4D printing, a new technology from Skylar tibbits an architect, designer and computer scientist. The core concept behind this new technology is self assembly. 4D printing is being billed as a process where synthetic objects can change and adapt themselves to the environment. Eagerly waiting for the 4-D printing