Mar 29, 2019 | By Thomas

Rutgers University-New Brunswick engineers have created flexible, lightweight 4D printed materials with potential applications in morphing airplane or drone wings, soft robotics and tiny implantable biomedical devices.

4D printing is based on additive manufacturing technology, with one big difference: it uses special materials and sophisticated designs to print objects that change shape with environmental conditions such as temperature acting as a trigger, said senior author Howon Lee, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. Time is the fourth dimension that allows them to morph into a new shape.

« We believe this unprecedented interplay of materials science, mechanics and 3D printing will create a new pathway to a wide range of exciting applications that will improve technology, health, safety and quality of life, » Lee said.

The engineers have created a new class of « metamaterials » that are engineered to have unusual and counterintuitive properties that are not found in nature.

Previously, the shape and properties of metamaterials were irreversible once they were manufactured. But the Rutgers engineers can tune their plastic-like materials with heat, so they stay rigid when struck or become soft as a sponge to absorb shock.

According to the university, the stiffness can be adjusted more than 100-fold in temperatures between room temperature (73 degrees) and 194 degrees Fahrenheit, allowing great control of shock absorption. The materials can be reshaped for a wide variety of purposes. They can be temporarily transformed into any deformed shape and then returned to their original shape on demand when heated.

The video below shows how 4D-printed smart materials can morph from stiff to soft and also change shape.

The materials could be used in airplane or drone wings that change shape to improve performance, and in lightweight structures that are collapsed for space launches and reformed in space for a larger structure, such as a solar panel.

Soft robots made of soft, flexible and rubbery materials inspired by the octopus could have variable flexibility or stiffness that is tailored to the environment and task at hand. Tiny devices inserted or implanted in people for diagnosis or treatment could be temporarily made soft and flexible for minimally invasive and less painful insertion into the body, Lee said.

Their research is published in the journal Materials Horizons.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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