Most of us are just finding out what 3D printing is, but now there’s buzz about 4D printing. Here is a short introduction to 4D printing
Additive manufacturing, aka 3D printing, is 30 years old this year. That takes us back to 1984 when it was invented by a fellow named Charles Hall! What were you doing in 1984? I was working in East Asia as an automotive industry strategy consultant, marveling at how Korea was running to catch up with Japan. I guess I missed the Scientific American article back then about how printers will be the factories of the future. I thought the factories of the future would be in South Korea.
So what is 3D printing for starters? 3D printing or additive manufacturing is the use of one of various processes to make a three-dimensional object. In 3D printing, primarily additive processes are used, in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control. These objects can be of almost any shape or geometry, and are produced from a 3D model or other electronic data source. A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot.
Ashtabula County has considerable strength as a manufacturing center. We are good at making things, and making the materials (such MFG’s molded fiberglass materials) that are used in making things! If manufacturing is to remain strong in Ashtabula County, it must use the driving manufacturing technologies of the future, which includes 3D printing and eventually 4D printing. 3D printing is making an appearance in Ashtabula County. According to this article, Iten Industries, an Ashtabula-based manufacturer of advanced composite components and materials, is now offering additive manufacturing and 3D printing services. I imagine that others in Ashtabula County are doing the same.
So what the heck is 4D printing? 4D printing uses a 3D printer to create objects that change their shape when removed from the printer. Invented at MIT in 2013, the purpose is to make things self-assemble when exposed to air, water or heat due to the chemical interaction of the materials used in their manufacture. A more dramatic goal is have the objects oscillate in some fashion on their own. The 4th dimension moniker refers to the self-transformation. Sounds something like “living” products!
So I didn’t miss the Scientific American article from 2013 that talked about 4D printing. You shouldn’t either. Read it here.