We’ve all heard about 3-D printing and the industrial revolution this technology promises to bring. Just imagine, your own personal 3-D printer that can manufacture any shape you can design and program on a personal computer. Now, there is another disruptive manufacturing process in development: 4-D printing. One of 4-D printing’s innovators is MIT architect and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits, who has been on a recent media tour explaining the benefits and possibilities of 4-D manufacturing. Tibbits describes how 4-D printed materials and objects differ from their 3-D counterparts in that they are adaptive and responsive to the environment. For example, when exposed to either vibration, water, or heat, 4-D printed objects and materials can change shape, transforming into a variety spatial configurations based on the programmer’s intended design. Tibbit also envisions architecture that can self-assemble, and everyday objects that can respond to meet the unique needs of consumers (consider a coffee cup that expands to diffuse heat).
Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.