The United States Army Research Office has given university researchers a grant worth $855,000 to develop the next generation of 3D printing – that is, 4D printing. Very original and mind boggling name, I know. The trio of researchers from Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, and the University of Illinois, will develop materials that can adapt to its environment. For instance, wheels that can change its structure to meet the demands of different roads, or a soldier’s clothes that adapt to different battle settings.
The army funding a super advanced technology that could change its shape and form? Sounds familiar. *cough* Skynet’s T-1000 *cough*
The researchers plan to use current 3D printing technology to manipulate materials at nano and micro levels in order to self-modifying structures. ‘Rather than construct a static material or one that simply changes its shape, we’re proposing the development of adaptive, biomimetic composites that reprogram their shape, properties or functionality on demand, based upon external stimuli,’ says Anna Balazs, the principal investigator of the research group. ‘By integrating our abilities to print precise, three-dimensional, hierarchically-structured materials, synthesize stimuli-responsive components, and predict the temporal behavior of the system, we expect to build the foundation for the new field of 4D printing’.
Though if this were to come true – and the tech won’t start an atomic apocalypse – just think of the many possibilities this presents!