Active Origami: Yes, It’s about 4D Printing


The concept of 4-dimensional printing, simply known as 4D printing is the future of printing technologies. It is been a while that the technology of 3-dimensional printing: 3D printing has been introduced to the world. 4D printing is the newest approach of it as it adds another dimension to 3D printing.

What is 3D printing?

A set of 3D printed objects.

First of all let’s try to figure out, what is 3D printing. 3D printing is commonly known as “additive manufacturing” because in this technology, a digital blue print of a model is converted to a physical object, by adding layer by layer. In simple, it can be explained as constructing solid objects with the aid of a computer model, by building the object, layer by layer with the use of a 3D printer. Mostly 3D printers use plastic as the raw material, as it is easy to handle and less costly. But some 3D printers use metals, ceramic as the raw material for ’printing’ 3D objects.

What is 4D printing?

A set of 4D printed objects and their shape transformations.

Simply 4D printing is an advancement or a renovation of 3-dimensional printing technology. In 4D printing technology a 3D printed object is enhanced to transform from its original structure to another. Therefore the objects can change their shape. Which means a flat sheet can automatically turn into a 3D object. Therefore 4D printing technology is known as active origami.

To provoke the shape transformation process of 4D printed objects, a source of external energy, which acts as a trigger is used. It can be light energy, heat energy, wind energy, electrical energy, water etc. For building most of the 4D printed objects special materials are used. One main characteristic of raw materials used for 4D printed objects is they should have the ability to react to triggers. Triggers provoke the execution of genetic code which is 3D printed in those objects. Once a trigger is available the 4D printed objects can change their shape into pre-designed shapes. Therefore objects which can reshape according to environmental conditions can be built. In addition this technology gives the ability to make ‘programmable’ objects.

In the future..

This is still an emerging technology and it is currently under research. It has proven signs improvement therefore it would become a leading technology in the near future. Therefore with the use of this technology, shape-shifting objects, implants which can adapt according to body conditions, self-assembling buildings, medicines which can be delivered only to targeted organs, soft robots etc. would become everyday objects. Therefore 4D printing technology would become a game-changer in the near future….


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