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The fourth dimension: How 4D printing is impacting manufacturing

The fourth dimension: How 4D printing is impacting manufacturing

Written by David

June 19, 2019

Human beings have five senses; sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. But what about intuition? Some people refer to this as the sixth sense. Now, a new manufacturing technique is adding an extra dimension ─ a sixth sense ─ to products with applications as varied as aerospace and medical. Additive manufacturing is no longer only in three dimensions, but four. Here Jonathan Wilkins, director at automation equipment supplier EU Automation, shares some insight into 4D printing and the impact we can expect it to have. 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing, where products are built up layer by layer, rather than machined away from a larger block of material. With the technology about to enter its fourth decade, the future looks promising for industries that invest in 3D. The technique of 3D printing in plastic and metal is growing in popularity as manufacturers use it for serialised […]

Adding to additive

4D printing brings all the benefits of its predecessor but adds adaptability as an additional feature. While you could additively manufacture a compressor inlet temperature sensor for a jet engine or a heat exchanger on a car, it wouldn’t be able to adapt to external factors like heat, vibration or moisture. 4D printing adds an additional dimension ─ the ability to change over time.

4D printing is based on similar technologies to 3D printing, but uses smart polymers, programmed to remember shapes when they are printed. This means that the final product is pre-programmed to respond to a specific stimulus without external intervention.


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