4D Printing Market To Be Driven By Rising Demand In Construction Industries Till 2020: Grand View Research, Inc.

4D printing consists of biomimetic composites that adapt and reprogram their properties, functionality or shape on demand based upon external stimuli. Researchers are combining different types of plastics and fibers to create smart materials that self-assemble or change shape when they come into contact with stimuli such as heat or water or are confronted with a change in its environment. Skylar Tibbits, the director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Self-Assembly Lab and researchers from the firms Stratasys and Autodesk Inc. have developed a process that turns a code into such smart objects. 4D printing technology is expected to allow users to print objects by taking smart materials from a 3-D printer that reshape themselves or self-assemble over time take.

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It is called 4D because it adds time (fourth dimension), to the printing process. Specific geometrical training needs to be imparted to such a printer in order to bring precision to the process of transformation of an object into various shapes formed at specific angles. A geometric code based on the object’s own angles and dimensions is fed to the printer along with measurements that dictate its behavior when confronted with external stimuli. This code sets the direction, the number of times and the angles at which a material can bend and curl. Increased demand for technological innovation in the fields of military, manufacturing, construction, fashion and aerospace among others is expected to bolster the research work in order to practically realize the concept of 4D printing.

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Complex coding techniques, high cost of developing smart materials are some of the restraints for the research and development work. Potential application areas include military & defense, automotive, manufacturing, medicine, construction, infrastructure, clothing, aerospace and numerous other fields. In military and defense, concepts such as alteration of camouflage of a soldier’s uniform, protection against shrapnel upon contact and protection against poisonous gas upon exposure are proposed and can be put into practical use with technological advancement. Additionally, guns could transform into other weapons, aerial drones could transform into land-roaming machines, and submarines could hide based on the water they travel through.

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