The world was yet struggling to become a fit place for 3D printing and the next age is already knocking the door with the dawn of 4D printing. A group of engineers is practicing this technology by using light to print 3D structures in manner that they don’t forget their original shape. The memory is so sharp that even after being bent at extreme angles, stretched, or twisted these spring back to their original forms. The shapes here varied from small coils to multimaterial flowers, Eiffel Tower 1-inch tall replica, and a few others. These were even heated to a specific temperature called “sweet spot”.
Figure 1: A shape memory Eiffel tower was 3-D printed using projection microstereolithography
For some of these shapes and structures, the researchers were successful in printing their micron-scale features that had as small diameter as of a human hair. These dimensions are one-tenth of what other scientists have been able to achieve with printable shape-memory materials. One of the associate professors of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, Nicholas X. Fang likes to explain that shape-memory polymers capable of morphing into something else as a response to temperature change can actually be useful in several spheres. These new application areas may vary from soft actuators that turn the face of solar panels towards the sun to the small drug capsules that open up on theHe also says, “ We ultimately want to use body temperature as a trigger,. If we can design these polymers properly, we may be able to form a drug delivery device that will only release medicine at the sign of a fever." Another colleague, Qi “Kevin” Ge adds that the process of 3-D printing shape-memory materials can be called as 4-D printing material because these structures are designed for changing over the fourth dimension i.e. the time, He also quotes, “ Our method not only enables 4-D printing at the micron-scale, but also suggests recipes to print shape-memory polymers that can be stretched 10 times larger than those printed by commercial 3-D printers. This will advance 4-D printing into a wide variety of practical applications, including biomedical devices, deployable aerospace structures, and shape-changing photovoltaic solar cells. first sign of infection.
This team is currently seeking ways to utilize soft materials in form of dependable pliable tools. The new emerging materials that includes shape-memory polymers can deform and stretch in a dramatic manner as a response to environmental changes like light, electricity, or heat. If the same can be used in other biomedical devices, wearable sensors, artificial muscles, or soft robotics, it would do wonders for complete mankind as a whole.