What is 4D Printing? A Quick Glimpse Into The Future!

If you look around yourself in the manufacturing industry, you’ll see the rapid growth of 3D Printing technology that has occurred in the last few years. 3D Printing technology has actually been budding and growing ever since almost 40 years. While experts are still coming up with new findings and innovations in 3D Printing technology, we have an even advanced technology budding up at this point of time. Add an extra dimension, that of time and we will have 4D Printing.

In this article, we will go step by step and find out more about 4D Printing. We are going to answer questions like: What is 4D Printing Basically? , How does it work? , What is the difference between 3D and 4D Printing? And even more… So keep on reading.

Introduction

The basic idea behind 3D Printing was that a digital file is created on a computer and from that digital file, three dimensional solid objects are manufactured layer by layer using a 3D Printer. Now, the basic idea of 4D Printing keeps the 3D Printing technology intact and adds a completely new feature in the mix. With 4D Printing, the structures that we have manufactured will also have the ability to change their shape over time.

4d printing
Image Source: FossCrunch

Step by Step Overview

First, let us go through a step by step overview of the process after which we will read why 4D Printing is even required.

  1. The first step in this process is the same as 3D Printing. A digital file is created and it is manufactured by a 3D Printer using the Slicing feature where the digital 3D model is divided into thousands of horizontal layers and then printed layer by layer.

  2. Currently, we don’t have specialized 4D printers so 3D printers fed with some smart material are being used for 4D Printing. This smart material is actually a hydrogel or a shape memory polymer.

  3. Once a structure has been manufactured, the structure or the material actually reacts with certain environmental features such as humidity, temperature and plenty of other things which can lead to a change in shape for the material.

Difference between 3D and 4D Printing

We have already established the fact multiple times in the article that 4D Printing is derived from 3D Printing. In fact, the process of 4D Printing begins with 3D Printing as a prerequisite. Moreover, we are only using 3D printers for the process of 4D Printing. So, what exactly is the difference here?

  • The major difference is the fact that 3D printed objects do not change shape or form. Once they have been constructed or manufactured, they retain the same shape. In 4D Printing however, the objects manufactured change their form on reacting to certain environmental parameters. These parameters include humidity, temperature, pressure, gravity and air. But apart from these environmental parameters, these objects can change shape by external stimulation from water of a certain characteristic, light, as well as heat.

 

Image Source: Sculpteo

 

  • The kind of material that goes into a 3D printer forms a major difference between 3D Printing and 4D Printing technologies. While 3D printers are being fed materials ranging from plastic to metal, the difference in objects input during 4D Printing procedure is that the input objects are specifically programmed to change shape. These objects, as we’ve already discussed, can be hydrogel or even a shape memory polymer.

Industrial Impact:

4D Printing is still in its initial stages so the costs involved are considerably high. While more and more innovations are being done in technology, researches are being conducted to study the commercial prospect of this technology as well.

According to reports presented by Grand View Research, a business consulting firm in India, the 4D Printing market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of more than 33.2% through 2025.

In the current scenario, 4D Printing is seeing its use in Architecture for proper imagination of common adaptive facades and opening roofs. Apart from use in Architecture, its use in Biomedical field has been a big step forward as researchers have created a 4D printable liquid resin. This resin comes with qualities of regaining its original shape under specific temperature range and is expected to help in the development of biological scaffolds.

4D Printing is expected to have humongous potential in the technology, automotive, aerospace and defense industries. As the technological experts make further strides in this technology and the cost reduces, the use of this technology will increase rapidly.

Conclusion

It is clear that the features and the advancement that 4D Printing brings to the table will be of great use to the manufacturing companies. From this point onwards, it’s only a matter of time for 4D Printing to become much more accessible. I am going to leave you with a few links so that you can add more to the knowledge that you’re taking away from this article. Thanks for reading! Subscribe For More Articles Like This!

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