How 4D Printing Works


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Author's Note: How 4-D Printing Works

4-D printing remains in its early stages — certainly too early to know whether it's anything more than a clever way to market a collection of related ideas, let alone if it can be made practical. But a few of the sorts of people who bet on these kinds of things are betting on it, and why not? If it can do a fraction of what it's touted to be able to do, it'll go places. Just look how far 3-D printing has come in just a few decades.

Still, one has to wonder if there's not a limit to how fast these macroscale self-assembling technologies can operate. There's only so fast a material can grow, curl, bend or just plain slam together without having to alter the material in some radical ways. Then again, perhaps enough energy jammed into a given system can overcome any such problem, assuming the materials can take the stresses.

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