What is 4D Printing?

What is 4D Printing?

“Today at micron and nano scales, there is an unprecedented revolution happening.”

These bold words were spoken by Skylar Tibbits, a designer, computer scientist and TED Fellow at a recent TED Talk.

Just when the public was wrapping its collective head around 3D printing, let us introduce to you the next innovative manufacturing technique – 4D printing.


4D printing incorporates 3D printing, building parts layer-by-layer. However, it adds a fourth element – time. Over time, 4D printed objects transform themselves.

“We’re proposing that the fourth dimension is time and that over time static objects will transform and adapt,” said Tibbits at a conference in Los Angeles.

“What we’re saying here is, you design something, you print it, it evolves,” Tibbits told Wired magazine. “It’s like naturally embedding smartness into the materials.”

This is all thanks to a layer of “intuitive” material that absorbs water and changes shape accordingly.

“Imagine water pipes that can expand to cope with different capacities or flows and save digging up the street,” said Tibbits.

The idea can also help assemble larger objects – like furniture that is difficult to assemble.
With 4D printing, by combining automation and self-assembly, major inefficiencies, energy consumption and excessive labour techniques can all be improved.

A program, combined with transformation has now been embedded directly into materials, which may lead to the manufacturing technique that produces more adaptive infrastructure in the future.




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