See tthe video: https://selfassemblylab.mit.edu/4d-printing/2018/1/5/oq15p04kjd3a6t6iylyst1q3yocwwb
According to an MIT article, 4D printing could have the potential to transform manufacturing and supply chains. That’s quite a bold statement.
So what is 4D printing? It’s a technology labeled as complex, but simply put, 4D printing is made using additive 3D printing technology using materials with different properties. Some of the materials are rigid and some ‘flexible’, so that can they can change when exposed to a planned-on external stimulus. This stimulus could be one that could adjust to fluctuations in temperature, water flow, and/or pressure. Pipe failure prevention and self-healing pipes are two examples an MIT article cites.
The video shows a 4D object that self-assembles when exposed to a liquid. Imagine applications where an object can adapt in a controlled manner when an anticipated situation develops, or adapt to a change in environment. 4D printed bio-compatible materials as another example, could have great value in medicine.
MIT article authors describe a couple more examples, “valves manufactured using hydrogel material, for example, were able to close automatically when the liquid flowing through them went above a threshold temperature, allowing for the control of water flow. 4D-printed pipes could also theoretically change their diameter according to flow volume or make other physical adaptations based on environmental criteria. In cases where normal pipes would break or crack due to increased flow, 4D-printed pipes could thus potentially adjust their size, leading to savings in maintenance, operating, and replacement costs as well.”