4D printing breakthrough has created 'smart ink' to respond to stimuli

A new smart ink has been developed for 4D printing that can respond to changes in light, humidity, water, and temperature.

Published Dec 24, 2021 3:00 AM CST   |   Updated Tue, Jan 18 2022 7:31 PM CST
1 minute & 8 seconds read time

Marc del Pozo Puig of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) has created a new 'smart ink' for use in 4D printing.

4D printing breakthrough has created 'smart ink' to respond to stimuli 01

4D printing uses 3D printing to create objects capable of rearranging themselves in response to environmental stimuli. Given that they change with time, the fourth dimension in 4D printing is time. Printing with a material that changes in response to its environment has been done before to create some objects that can grow or shrink, open and close or twist.

To reverse these changes, the objects needed to be placed underwater. The new ink developed by del Pozo will make reversible change possible in normal conditions. The ink itself is made with liquid crystals instead of the previously used shape-memory polymers or hydrogels. Shape-memory polymers cannot reverse their form changes, and hydrogels can only reverse their changes underwater.

"What we didn't yet have was a more flexible material, capable of reversing its shape-shifting in various environments in response to stimuli. Now, we can adapt liquid crystals in multiple ways. We can play with not only the chemical composition but also the molecular arrangement," said del Pozo.

"Thus, materials can be designed that are responsive to humidity or temperature and whose movement can be controlled with great precision. And by combining materials with different functionalities, printed objects can be organized to form a communicating system," del Pozo continued.

The ink is also light-sensitive, which provides numerous possible applications for the technology in combination with the other stimuli. del Pozo envisions the potential for soft robots and medical applications such as printable artificial eyes, where the iris could change diameter in response to light changes.

NEWS SOURCE:phys.org

Adam grew up watching his dad play Turok 2 and Age of Empires on a PC in his computer room, and learned a love for video games through him. Adam was always working with computers, which helped build his natural affinity for working with them, leading to him building his own at 14, after taking apart and tinkering with other old computers and tech lying around. Adam has always been very interested in STEM subjects, and is always trying to learn more about the world and the way it works.

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