forget 3D printing – MIT’s 4D printed self-assembling objects are the future



as the technologies in 3D printing progress over time, new scientific breakthroughs leading to the discoveries of organs printed from regenerative cells and bio-engineered body parts will become a thing of the past. seeing the potential in self-assembling forms, MIT researcher skylar tibbits and team from minneapolis-based stratasys have worked together to develop a method of 4D printing programmable entities that self-actuate on their own – much the way a strand of DNA zips itself together. the new rapid-protoyping technique entails multi-material prints with the added capability of embedding transformative information from one shape to another.


instead of printing out a complete object, the 4D method creates a long string of multiple materials – which then fold and convert into various shapes when placed in water, activating the morphing process. engineered with different properties at the particle level within the 3D geometry – software allows for simulated self-assemblies, optimizing design constraints and joint folding. it is the idea that this technology can be implemented not only into small-scale projects, but used in the future construction of architectural projects such as skyscrapers, buildings or even housing on the moon.



4D printing: cube self-folding strandvideo courtesy skylar tibbits



4D printed self assembling objects by MIT + stratasys

4D printed cubes



4D printing: MIT self-folding strandvideo courtesy skylar tibbits



self-folding sheets: hyperbolic paraboloidvideo courtesy skylar tibbits