As technologies become more available, more applications and innovations based on the technology are created. Such is the case with 3D printing, which builds structures layer by layer, as new designs and systems are being developed to take advantage of its flexibility. Now researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Singapore University of Technology and Design have successfully achieved 4D printing, by integrating so-called smart materials into the printing plastic.
The smart materials in this case have the ability to self-assemble when exposed to water and has been layered into the plastic strands 3D printers use to build a structure. By integrating the material into the plastic, it allows the shape changes to be designed by controlling the placement and orientation of the fibers. This will allow something to be printed flat, compact itself for shipping, and then activated again to take on its final shape.
Eventually, as 3D printing matures, we could see this technology applied to create tunable 3D surfaces, for use in cars, planes, and antennas.