The fourth dimension is time, shape shifting in fact, and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong (UOW) is helping to set the pace in the next revolution in additive manufacturing.
Just as the extraordinary capabilities of 3D printing have begun to infiltrate industry and the family home, researchers have started to develop 3D printed materials that morph into new structures, post production, under the influence of external stimuli such as water or heat -- hence the name, 4D printing.
So, as in 3D printing, a structure is built up layer by layer into the desired shape, but these new materials are able to transform themselves from one shape into another, much like a child's Transformer toy.
ACES Professor Marc in het Panhuis said it was the cleverness of the valve's creation that was remarkable.
"The cool thing about it is, is it's a working functioning device that you just pick up from the printer," he said. "There's no other assembly required."
The ACES Chief Investigator said the ACES group was the first to combine printing a 4D device with four different cartridges simultaneously, while using tough gels with the incorporated actuating materials.
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