4D Printing Technology—Science Fiction No More

The fourth dimension here is time. The researchers from the University of Wollongong, Australia, have invented a way to change a form of a 3D-printed object long after it’s printed under the influence of temperature, pressure or water. It becomes possible due to a special gel, and could be used in extreme environments like deep space without relying on humans or robots. According to the scientists, the objects can even revert back to their original shape.

A 3D printer-compatible hydrogel (ionic covalent entanglement) is mechanically tough and can repeatedly change its shape thanks to crosslinked chemical bonds. When the temperature is above 35° C (95° F), the gel quickly loses its water content and shrinks down by nearly 50%. The example of such object has become a 3D printed valve, which closes with the hot water and opens again with cold.

The technology is brand new and needs much improvements. But it will greatly help in construction making it easier to assemble materials without human intervention. More information one could find in the journal Macromolecular Rapid Communications.

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