4D Printing: A Whole New Dimension

Forget 3D printing, 4D is set to be the future of additive manufacturing – well, maybe.

At the moment scarcely a day goes by without some new innovation, made possible by 3D printing, being unveiled. But if like the rest of us you're still trying to get your head around the concept of 3D printing, you might be a little baffled to hear that scientists are already looking to develop an upgrade – 4D printing.


A whole new dimension has recently been added to the world of printing. That's right, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are looking to step things up a gear and start a whole new 4D printing revolution. And trust us, it's really rather exciting

What Is It?

Normal 3D printing involves a process in which objects are built up, layer by layer. But objects printed using 4D printing techniques are a whole new breed entirely. They’re able to shift shape over time, making them a bit like a transformer really!

These so-called ‘smart objects’ can self-assemble and even change shape, when faced with a change in their environment.

More specifically, these objects are printed using smart materials that are activated by a variety of different triggers, such as water, heat and even sound.

Heading up this revolutionary project is Skylar Tibbs, head of MIT's self-assembly laboratory, who is attempting to answer the rather intriguing question 'can we make things make themselves?'