Compared with 3D printing, 4D printing adds a time dimension to 3D printing, that is, 4D printed objects will change into different shapes over time (automatically). It is reported that this is a low-cost, reversible actuator technology that applies conductive thermoplastic to ordinary paper by applying a thin conductive thermoplastic, using inexpensive 3D printers or hand-painting. When an electric current is applied, the thermoplastic material heats up and expands, causing the paper to bend or fold; when the current is removed, the paper returns to a predetermined shape.
Throughout the research process, the team designed “basic actuators” based on origami and paper-cutting, which can be used to transform themselves into spheres or cylinders, or to construct more Fine objects, such as lampshades made with this technique, can change the brightness of the lamp while changing the shape of the lampshade, or can be made into artificial mimosa plants with lobes that will open sequentially when the plant is touched.
The researchers replaced the original open source software of the 3D printer with their own program code, which automatically calculates the styling and printing speed required to achieve a specific folding angle for the printed object. In addition, the researchers combined the flexible material with a shrink-resistant material (a rubber-like material) and constantly changed the printer's printing speed through software. When the thermoplastic was heated and melted and used for printing, Precise control of the folded pattern.
The technology is environmentally friendly and can be used to make panel furniture, boats and even emergency shelters that can be folded automatically. These products can be transported flat to save space and be folded by solar (automatic).