If you are new to the world of physical printing, you may wonder what exactly is 4D printing. Some of the best printers might be 3D printers, but are 4D printers actually a thing? Yes! In this case, a 4D-printed item is something that has been 3D printed but can change shape over time. So what exactly is 4D printing, and what are some advantages to adopting the hobby? Keep reading to find out.
Wait, a whole new dimension? You better believe it. In this case, the fourth dimension refers to time, but that does not mean that printed objects time travel or anything like that. 4D-printed objects simply change shape over time to meet certain use requirements. So if a 3D model shifts over time to accommodate another object or a preferred use case scenario, it is called a 4D object by some in the industry.
This is developing technology, so the 4D printing applications of tomorrow are likely very different than those of today.
Before learning about 4D printing, though, it is helpful to understand what is 3D printing. A 3D printer uses resin or filament to build models; if you are learning what 3D printer resin is made of. These objects are sourced via design documents if you are wondering what file types 3D printers use. Some printers use slicer software to ensure an even print if you are learning what a slicer is in 3D printing.
There are many off-the-beaten-path uses for 4D objects, and it must be stated again that 3D printers can create 4D objects so long as it meets the requirement of changing over time to meet the needs of a specific object. It is also worth noting that 4D printing is an extremely new process, so only industrial printers can typically handle these tasks.
If materials and objects change over time, that makes them excellent options for self-repairing systems. These items have already found use in pipes and other sensitive areas, working to repair the systems automatically. This is still being studied, however, so don’t expect any self-repairing appliances to show up on the doorstep tomorrow.
STAT: 4D printing is the process through which a 3D printed object transforms itself into another structure over the influence of external energy input as temperature, light, or other environmental stimuli. (source)
Because 4D materials shift and transform, that makes them ideal for building larger objects. In other words, the size of the object is not automatically determined by the print bed, as it can bend, twist, and extend once printed. A common example is a flat panel that transforms into a chair.