Day 111: The emergence of 4D printing

Computational architect Skylar Tibbits’ February TED talk spawned a flurry of news articles in publications such as the Guardian. The topic, 4D printing, is anything but ordinary. In his capacity as head of the Self Assemby Lab at MIT, Tibbits is one of the researchers working on Project Cyborg.
Project Cyborg is described by its company, Autodesk, as ‘cloud-based meta-platform of design tools for programming matter.’ Essentially it is a complicated piece of software which aims to make the design process, from modelling to optimisation, incredibly simple.
Tibbits’ role in the equation is working on objects which can model themselves, from the nano scale to buildings. At TED global he built 500 glass beakers. In TED Long Beach, they built an installation that builds installations. The vital addition to 3D printing which is present in 4D is the capacity for transformation; the user can print one part and it can transform into something else.
Other researchers have looked at cells so small they can’t be seen under a microscope. One researcher has developed a nano- robot built from DNA strands, while others are examining bacterial cultures in buildings. All of these exciting developments mean that within some of our lifetimes we may go to Ikea to buy a chair which assembles itself,or see selective cancer killing nano- robots used instead of chemotherapy. As Tibbits says, we need to join in reinventing and re-imagining the world.


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