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The Future of Printing: Taking it to the 4th Dimension

You may be familiar with 3D printing, it is after all quite the rage right now. A 3D printer can be programmed to create anything from a novelty toy to a pre-fabricated shelter, but whilst the technology is still pretty new, the boundaries of potential are being pushed ever further by industry experts.

The latest development to come to light involves 4D printing. This in essence is an object that had been printed using a 3D printer but the special materials used have also been programmed so that they can change shape under set conditions.

As far as examples go, this technology could be used for creating flat pack furniture that builds itself, right through to making it possible to build constructions in hazardous places such as the bottom of the ocean and even outer space.


3D printed today, 4D constructed tomorrow?

Scientists can programme the materials to change shape based on a variety of parameters, from a change in temperature or pressure to changes in oxygen levels or whether or not water is present. This could make it possible to construct underwater pipelines without having to risk the lives of engineers for example.


4D printing could also provide health benefits through programmable nano technology, helping to fight illnesses such as cancer, or maintain bacteria free systems in buildings. Nano bots would be programmed to perform a certain action in the presence of types of bacteria or damaged cells.


As for applications within the home, that is surely still the realm of science fiction. 4D printing applications will have a long way to come before we see them in the home or office, but it is worth keeping one eye open to see who will be the first artist or brand to use programmable printed materials for entertainment or leisure.



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Author Bio: Dave Bairner presently holds the position of the Director at Business Technology Support Limited (BTS), a digital printing solution that helps people to find the perfect photocopiers to suit their requirements. For more information, reach Dave on Twitter (@ BTS) or Linkedin or Facebook.


Dave Bairner