Researchers Create First 4D Printed Silicon Material

Posted by Lindsey Kelderhouse on

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have created what is being referred to as 4D printing because it combines 3D printing with an added dimension: time. The LLNL team developed a silicone for 3D printers that can flex, stretch and provide shape memory. Their discovery has paved the way for 3D printing to be utilized in new applications such as customizable cushioning for helmets and shoes.

 

4D Printing

Photo courtesy of "3D Printed Silicones with Shape Memory" at Nature

 Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have created what is being referred to as 4D printing because it combines 3D printing with an added dimension: time. The LLNL team developed a silicone for 3D printers that can flex, stretch and provide shape memory. Their discovery has paved the way for 3D printing to be utilized in new applications such as customizable cushioning for helmets and shoes.

The silicone material allows users to design an object that will return to its original form when heated, mold to fit around an object and hold the fitted shape as it cools. Essentially, a user could print the padding for a helmet that, when initially worn, would compress to fit snuggly against the wearer’s head.  If the wearer ever wanted to refit the helmet, he or she could simply reheat the material to its original shape and repeat the process of fitting.

Like many great inventions, this material was discovered by accident.

The researchers had intended to create a material that could revert to its initial shape once compressed, much like a memory foam mattress. Instead, what they developed was a substance that would only return to its original form once heated.

At first, the team had some misgivings about their discovery since it was unintended. Now, the new technology’s potential has rekindled their enthusiasm.

LLNL material scientist, Eric Duoss remarked, “The neat thing is, if the wearer grows a little bit and wants to re-fit the material, they just heat it up to expand it, put it on and let it cool to once again customize the fit. It’s reversible. It’s a completely new material really, and we’re excited about it.”

 

For more details, you can view the original articles at Nature and 3D Printing Industry.


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