Monday, January 6, 2014

4D Printing Shows Signs of Life

The fourth dimension is not just the things of sci-fi movies. The concept has been on the horizon for years, but now is moving closer to reality. Research is currently being done to explore the very real possibilities for its integration in our everyday lives.

The concept of 4D printers is this: to create objects that can transform over time and possibly even self-assemble.

Right now, we can print complex parts en masse, but it often takes hours of manual labor to actually assemble them. 4D printing seeks to develop materials and printing techniques that address the time issue.

The U.S. Army Research Office has issued a grant that will be divided among three research teams at Harvard University, the University of Pittsburg and the University of Illinois– totaling $855,000 to develop this so-called “4D Printing.”

It’s no surprise the Army is so keen on it. And the U.S. Navy too. They’re testing the possibility of 3D printing ammunition and UAVs onboard ship.

Imagine a 3D-printed textile that could adapt to camouflage a soldier in different environments (or hide them by bending light!). Or a metal that adapts to environmental conditions to improve the performance of a tank or truck. Skylar Tibbits, a leader in the 4D printing movement (who, as Core77 points out, was left out of the Army grant), has had luck printing materials that respond when they're immersed in water—for example, a flat piece of plastic that folds into a box, or the flexible chain that morphs into a rigid structure seen in the here

At UAT, you not only imagine what’s possible, you become part of a new generation of what actually will lead an entire shift in the way we innovate and change the way products and services are produced, distributed and used in everyday life. It’s the Maker Revolution, a new way to think, design, conceive, prototype, test, manufacture and bring innovation to market. It is 3D printers, 4D fabricating, maker bots, robotics and embedded systems, engineering and hardware creation, digital design and animation, laser cutters, open-hardware and software, and desktop fabrication all combined and now taken to the industrial and consumer levels.

In October 2013, University of Advancing Technology (UAT) became first University in Arizona to launch a digital maker fabrication lab on campus: the UAT Makers Fab Lab. The Digital Makers Lab is designed to foster creativity and challenge student innovators in a 24/7 environment for those who seek to lead the new industrial revolution—a revolution that will include 4D printing and beyond.

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