3D printed objects can remember their shapes

3D printing

People use 3D printing (or additive manufacturing) to make 3D solid objects from a digital file. In an additive process, an object is created by laying down all layers of material until the object is created.

3D printing is widely used in medicine (e.g., 3D printed implants), tissue engineering (e.g., 3D printed organs and body parts), aerospace and aviation (e.g., 3D printed combustion chamber liners in NASA), and automotive industry (e.g., 3D printed car engine).

Recently, scientists from Singapore and the USA develop a new technique. With this technique, 3D printed structures can remember their shapes over time. They called it 4D printing, where the fourth dimension is time. The finding is published in Scientific Reports.

In the study, researchers used light to create high resolution (up to a few microns) shape memory polymer structures. The 3D printed structures have excellent thermomechanical features, and they could remember their original shapes even after being twisted, stretched, and bent at extreme angles.

Researchers used a high resolution, high contrast digital micro-display to ensure the high resolution in the shape memory polymer. Multimaterial manufacturing was achieved via an automatic material exchanging mechanism integrated into the 3D printing system.

In addition, a highly fidelity computational tool based on the understanding of the shape memory behavior was used to facilitate the design of 3D structures.

Researchers suggest that the shape memory polymer is heat-responsive and has lots of applications, such as cardiovascular devices, aerospace structures, shopping bags, and shape changing photovoltaic solar cells.

Ultimately, researchers hope to use body temperature as a trigger. In that case, the material can work as a drug delivery device that only releases medicine at the sign of a fever.

Citation: Ge, Q. et al. (2016). Multimaterial 4D Printing with Tailorable Shape Memory Polymers. Scientific Reports, 6: 31110. doi: 10.1038/srep31110.
Figure legend: This Knowridge.com image is credited to Ge, Q et al. Please do not cite or distribute without author’s permission.