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Forget 3-D Printing, 4-D Printing is Already on the Way

posted: 04/24/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
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Dr. Marc in Het Panhuis and researcher Shannon Bakarich pose with a 4-D printer at Australia's University of Wollongong.
University of Wollongong/Paul Jones

As soon as you finally start feel caught up, something brand new comes along and changes the game. Just as 3-D printing is starting to penetrate the mainstream, researchers at Australia's University of Wollongong are busy developing the its next iteration, 4-D printing.

The two processes are not dissimilar; a 4-D printer functions similarly to its three-dimensional predecessor. A 4-D printer, however, produces materials that are able to transform in response to external stimuli, like heat or pressure.

Wollongong researcher Marc in het Panhuis' first project entailed printing a valve that clamps shut when surrounding water reachers a certain temperature, an innovation that could prove to be valuable to the field of soft robotics.

"The cool thing about it is, is it's a working functioning device that you just pick up from the printer," remarked in het Panhuis. "There's no other assembly required. It's an autonomous valve, there's no input necessary other than water; it closes itself when it detects hot water," he said.

Click here for more information from the University of Wollongong

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