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4-D printing to allow for shape-changing materials (Relevant for GS Prelims and GS Mains Paper III, Topic: Science and Technology)

4D Printing
Scientists are developing 4D printing technology to pave way for ‘smart’ materials that can change shape by themselves.Imagine buying a dress online that takes shape in front of your eyes in your living room.
Researchers are combining different types of plastics and fibres to create ‘smart’ materials that change shape when they come into contact with stimuli such as heat or water.

How it will work?
Objects designed in this way can expand, fold or unfurl into predesigned forms after being printed, in a process dubbed 4D printing.Using a scan of the customer’s body, the dress could be designed to fit perfectly and would be created with a series of tessellating segments.A computer model would then compress the design into the smallest possible space to fit inside a normal 3D printer. The customer would simply download the design, print it and unfurl it. 

Skylar Tibbits, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is pioneering the research with Stratasys, a digital manufacturing company.

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