What is 4-D printing? The new frontier of 3-D printing could revolutionize space exploration

Screenshot from the Georgia Institute of Technology's video describing a 4-D printed object
Source: Georgia Tech/YouTube
Screenshot from the Georgia Institute of Technology's video describing a 4-D printed object
Source: Georgia Tech/YouTube

You've heard of 3-D printing, but do you know about "4-D printing?"

The new technology could lead to innovations in several fields of science, adding new tools to medical and space exploration industries alike. It's a process that requires the perfect storm of light, collapsible materials and tension between parts to cause an entire object to bloom like a flower. The object will rise, expand and take its own shape over time. That's what makes it 4-D.

In a recent video, researchers at the Georgia Institute for Technology used hot water to speed up temperature change in materials. Their invention is made using "tensegrity," a system rods and cables.

Source: YouTube

It may not look like much, but this principle could be used for an endless list of commercial object that humans would want to build, pack away and then unfurl on demand.

"The goal is to find a way to deploy a large object that initially takes up little space," Glaucio Paulino, a professor at Georgia Tech's school of civil and environmental engineering, said in a release.

It could make for a fun sendoff gift to the humans of Asgardia, mankind's first-ever space nation that plans to be official by the spring of 2018. Picture astronauts bringing collapsible and expandable furniture into space.


How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Kelly Kasulis

Kelly Kasulis is a journalist covering tech and science for Mic. Follow her on Twitter: @KasulisK.

MORE FROM

Meet the Girl Scouts that will earn badges for being cybersecurity experts

They'll soon get badges for coding, cryptography and more.

How to use the Snapchat Map while everyone else continues to be confused about it

Everything you need to know about the new feature.

Planet 10? Scientists may have discovered a hidden planet in our solar system

There could be a ninth — or even 10th — planet hiding out in our solar system.

Scientists created a robot that will iron your clothes for you

Shut up and take my money.

Moth eyes have inspired the touchscreen of the future

It's going to change the anti-reflection game.

Twitter was flagging tweets including the word "queer" as potentially "offensive content"

Why Twitter put the word "queer" in the same category as violent, sexual imagery.

Meet the Girl Scouts that will earn badges for being cybersecurity experts

They'll soon get badges for coding, cryptography and more.

How to use the Snapchat Map while everyone else continues to be confused about it

Everything you need to know about the new feature.

Planet 10? Scientists may have discovered a hidden planet in our solar system

There could be a ninth — or even 10th — planet hiding out in our solar system.

Scientists created a robot that will iron your clothes for you

Shut up and take my money.

Moth eyes have inspired the touchscreen of the future

It's going to change the anti-reflection game.

Twitter was flagging tweets including the word "queer" as potentially "offensive content"

Why Twitter put the word "queer" in the same category as violent, sexual imagery.