4D Printing – The Next Big Thing

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If you have just started to get your head around 3D printing, there is something even more mind-blowing to look forward to – 4D printing. This will soon be a reality and a very exciting one at that. If you have a hard time understanding the concept – you are not alone. Perhaps a MIT professor can help explain it all.


At this year’s TED conference in LA, Skylar Tibbits, an MIT professor, gave people a glimpse into what he calls 4D printing. It’s truly amazing technology and immediately grabbed everyone’s attention. Basically, it is similar to 3D printing, but combined with an enhancement that allows parts to self-assemble and re-assemble themselves into a myriad of different products. This concept is very unique and has the potential to take the world by storm.

The device used is a Stratasys 3D printer that is designed to produce multi-layered materials. Each part will be comprised of a regular rigid plastic layer, along with an outer layer made of “smart” materials. When submerged in water, the “smart” material absorbs and expands, causing the parts to move and form a pre-specified object.


Tibbits says that although this printing technology is nothing new, it’s what happens afterwards that is extraordinary. The capacity created by this one extra step suddenly explodes into an extreme range of possibilities. Anything that requires intricate assembly like furniture, bikes, cars and electronics could require a lot less manpower – paving the way for machines to dominate the world. That sound you just heard was your mind being blown. Kabooooooom! For now, back to the cage.

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