One of the core advantages of 3D printing is just how intricate the resolution of the objects is. This ability to control the minutiae of prints has enabled various new sub-fields within Additive Manufacturing. One of the best examples is 4D printing and the other forms of programmable materials. Similarly, researchers at IST have developed what they call CurveUps. These refer to self-actuated objects that are printed relatively flat but take on a 3D shape eventually. The design process uses 3D models submitted by users and translated into this form of printing.
CurveUps are comprised of a latex sheet with 3D printed tiles on them. The tiles are 3D printed to have very complex microscale features. This allows an object to take shape as the latex shrinks and the tiles exert just the right amount of force and obstruction on each other. This enabled the researchers to create intricate shapes that take form. The tiles are shaped like tiny triangles with pins that intersect and exert force to fold the latex into shape.
The video below shows the process in action:
The method requires digital mapping of the exact behaviour of the tiles and their arrangement to create these 3D shapes derived from the original model submitted by the user. The software plans out an approximate shape in 2D and applies the tiles to it. Finally, the team actuates the tiles by adding the pre-stretched membrane.
3D Printing and Programmable Materials
We’ve previously covered various types of 4D printing. While this method isn’t precisely similar to it, it is a form of programmable materials development. The core elements, such as micro-scale structuring and changes in shape, are present in this research project.
4D printing is exciting because it is uniquely the domain of 3D printers. It provides researchers with the ability create new foods, space travel applications and potentially easily packable products. The micro-scale printing techniques have enable users to control the intricate aspects of materials and give them the power to react to stimuli such as heat or force.
Researchers are just beginning to explore the wide applications of 4D printing and programmable materials. One can only imagine how it will evolve as time goes on. One thing, however, is quite clear: 3D printing will always have a massive role to play.