Take Your 3D Printing to the Next Dimension

In what is being hailed as the next great advancement in 3D printing, scientists have been able to get a 3D printed shape to change form when it is exposed to water, bringing 3D printing squarely into the realm of the fourth dimension. Although the only examples we’ve seen so far are with relatively flat prints (which arguably subtracts one “D” from the claim) the new procedure is one which is groundbreaking for the technology.

The process uses cellulose fibers which, when aligned in a particular way and exposed to water, swell in order to change shape. This is similar to how a bimetallic strip in a thermostat works, but they really took their inspiration from biological processes in plants that allow them to change shape according to environmental conditions. It’s hard to tell if this new method of printing will forever alter the landscape of 3D printing but, for now, it’s an interesting endeavor that will be worth watching. The video after the break shows a fast-motion print using the technique, followed by a demo of the print submersed in water.

We often see new technological advancements that use biology as a springboard for new ideas, and this one is no different. There have been building structures inspired by pinecones and this Processing hack inspired by squid. Biology is all around us, and any of it could be used for inspiration for your next project!

[Image Credit: A.S. Gladman, E. Matsumoto, L.K. Sanders, and J.A. Lewis / Wyss Institute at Harvard University]

20 thoughts on “Take Your 3D Printing to the Next Dimension

  1. Couple of questions, how does it react to humidity? Can it change shape to a greater or lesser extent according to humidity? Also how long does it take to dry, and I assume, return to it’s original shape? This could have some interesting applications.

    1. Because they can and it looks cool, of course.
      Maybe they needed great uniformity of the printing bed and it seems like a silicon wafer would be the cheapest commercially available option with such high uniformity.

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