Although 3D printing may still seem like a new concept, TED Fellow Skylar Tibbits is developing what he calls “4D Printing” in which the fourth dimension is time. The technology will be able to print 3D objects which reshape themselves or self-assemble over time. Tibbits refers to Self-Assembly as a process by which disordered parts build an ordered structure through only local interaction. He has been working with software called “caDNano” that allows him to design 3D shapes and use DNA to self assemble those functional structures. He proposes that the world of nano-scale programmable adaptive materials can be combined with adaptive materials. He explains that the part can be printed, and then on its own it can transform into something else.
Some examples that he shows are a single strand dipped in water that self folds on its own into the letters “MIT” and another single strand in water folds on its own into a cube with no human interaction. Tibbits is even also working on bringing this technology on a macro level through adaptive infrastructure such as water pipes that could change flow capacity or rate, expand and contract. He invites other to reinvent how things come together on the nano-scale and human-scale.
To see the TED Talk for yourself, Click here.