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  • Some assembly required may soon be replaced with "Just Add Water."

  • 3D printers. I never get tired of thinking about all the possible applications, like building a brand new coffee table,

  • or building a brand new 3D printer, or finally getting that Strickland action figure everyone's been asking for.

  • But all of these great products have one thing in common - rigidity.

  • That means they're going to keep that shape once I print them, unless I take a flamethrower to them, or maybe a hacksaw.

  • But the advent of something called 4D printing could turn all of that on its head!

  • That's right, it's one "D" better!

  • Actually, it's not just a catch phrase, 4D printing is really about using a 3D printer to print out

  • self-reconfiguring, programmable material. Now imagine this. You have a non-living object

  • that can change its shape and behavior over time. It's kind of like a robot

  • , but there are no microprocessors, no circuit boards, no motors - in fact to you it looks like a string of plastic.

  • But you toss it into a kiddie pool, and upon contact with water

  • you now have a secret message spelled out in plastic cursive!

  • Skylar Tibbits, the man who really came up with this idea of 4D printing, has gone even further. He's created programmable sheet material.

  • It's a sheet of plastic that, when submerged in water, can clench up into the shape of a cube.

  • And a cube is just the beginning! More complex designs will mean

  • millions of more shapes - like self-folding origami! In the near future, imagine a smart

  • grid of plumbing, with pipes that can actually expand and contract in response to water demand.

  • Or maybe even heal if there is a frozen segment that breaks open. Or imagine self assembling furniture.

  • Print out a flat board and just add water, next thing you know it curls up into a rocking chair.

  • Now, wrap your mind around how useful this would be in a really hostile environment

  • , like low Earth orbit, where building stuff comes at a high cost and a high risk.

  • Now the prototypes we have seen so far have been pretty simple, but the promises are amazing!

  • Think about it on the really big scale. What about skyscrapers and bridges.

  • If we could make them out of smart materials like smart beams and smart bricks,

  • they could heal themselves after weather damage or prepare for something massive like an earthquake.

  • Or we flip it. We go on to the very small scale and now we have micro particles moving around in our bodies

  • , maintaining our health. You might be wondering, how much complexity

  • can build up out of stuff that changes its shape without computers or electromechanical motors.

  • Lets think about proteins for a second. Proteins are pretty much what make any basic

  • animal function possible on a cellular level. And a protein is really self-reconfiguring material.

  • It's a polypeptide. It's a long chain of amino acids.

  • So once again we're playing Copy Cat to mother nature. Now lets not get ahead of ourselves,

  • I'm not actually suggesting that we're going to be printing out some sort of plastic replicant

  • that can gain self-awareness and yearn for more life. But maybe we will.

  • In fact, it's hard for us to predict right now. We're just seeing the very beginning of this technology,

  • and the complexity could become truly amazing. So, how would you use 4D printing?

  • Let us know! Leave a comment below, we promise we're going to read every single one of them and

  • while you're there why don't you like the video if you enjoyed it, and subscribe

  • We got some great stuff coming up soon!

Some assembly required may soon be replaced with "Just Add Water."

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B1 printing smart shape water print programmable

4D Printing is the Future of Design

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    Mark Lin posted on 2014/02/22
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