Type to search

What Is 4D Printing And What Does It Do


What Is 4D Printing And What Does It Do


Undoubtedly, 3D Printing has become in recent years the big star in the field of design projects in the most diverse areas.

This is because the possibilities offered by the three dimensions have managed to take 2D design and Printing to a much broader terrain.

Despite the enormous popularity that 3D Printing has had in recent years due to this,

The truth is that in this field, there is still much to explore, especially considering the enormous advances that have been achieved with this technology in relation to the materials and procedures used during the last decade.

So it would not be wrong to point out that 3D Printing is still in the running.

Despite what remains to grow in 3D printing technology, the truth is that in the world, there is already talk of the 4D printing revolution, which can break the limits of everything. We had imagined a physical printing device.

Today, 4D Printing is the most modern thing we can find in the field of physical Printing, and it takes the concept much further,

Since it is not only a device that prints things with shapes that we can touch,

But is capable of mixing different types of materials that give rise to other more complex forms.

If you wish, you can know more about 4D Printing by reading the rest of the article.

What is 4D Printing?

Most likely, when we think of 4D Printing, we do it thinking about the spatial concept.

However, this idea is not entirely accurate.

Although 4D Printing continues with the path of Printing objects and is a variation of 3D Printing, the reality is that it has the unique ability to print objects using materials that adapt to the environment with which they interact.

And according to the reports of the specialists, on certain occasions, it will be able to repair itself automatically in case of failures or breaks.

With the 4D printer, you can still print all kinds of figures for all areas.

The truth is that this technology was designed and developed to take a step beyond tools, ornaments, and prostheses.

The true potential of the 4D printer has been put at the service of science and health.

Differences Between 3d Printing And 4d Printing

If we should mention the main difference between 3D Printing and 4D Printing,

We should mention that in regards to the first one, it is what is known as additive object manufacturing, which means that 3D Printing converts digital plans into physical objects, for which a 3D printer and the appropriate materials are used to be able to construct said objects layer by layer.

In contrast, although 4D Printing is based on this technology, the truth is that in this case, special materials and sophisticated designs are used, which are basically programmed in order to make 3D Printing change its shape.

For this reason, we could say that in general terms, 4D Printing is a renewal and expansion of 3D Printing.

Objects can no longer change once constructed in the case of 3D Printing.

While in 4D Printing, it is made with unique materials, they allow objects to acquire the quality of changing according to the conditions of the environments.

As we know, everything concerning printing methods and technologies has had the characteristic of being static until a few years ago.

Every time we print a document with a conventional printer or an object with a 3D printer, that document or object cannot change its form.

Thanks to the technology behind 4D Printing, the printing concept we knew has changed completely.

Today it is possible to print an object that has the quality of mutating to other forms every time it is exposed to certain environmental conditions, including the light, temperature, humidity, cold, and others.

Therefore, we could say that the central concept of the 4D printer is to take the capacity and 3D Printing, but adding the ability to do it using various materials and with unique capabilities that allow it to transform itself.

The object made through this technology can vary in shape and become something different.

This capacity can be used for printing objects by using materials that respond to thermal, kinetic, gravitational, magnetic, pneumatic, or other types of stimuli.

It is important to mention that to achieve this transformation after having been created and manufactured, any object printed with 4D technology must have a programmed stimulus or trigger, so the materials that will be used in 4D Printing will be crucial since they must use special materials that can react to said external stimulus.

4D Printing: A little history

If we review the recent history of 4D Printing we will find that it is not really possible to cite the name of a certain inventor of it.

We could say that its main precursor is the designer and scientist Skylar Tibbits.

However, the truth is that it is a technology that has been and is currently being developed by various scientists, researchers, and companies around the world.

On the contrary, if it is possible to indicate a year in which approximately 4D Printing became the object of Research.

It was around 2017 when some of the most important companies in the world of Printing, as well as various laboratories of Research and manufacturers of hardware and software, began to explore this area with increasing interest.

4D printing materials

As we have mentioned, currently, 4D printing technology is still in the research and development stage.

Valuable achievements have been achieved in this regard, and it is a technology that has much to give.

More and more laboratories and companies around the world are indeed engaged in the design of prototypes through the use of 4D Printing

But it is also true that it is a technology that is still far away for the consumer common due to the type of materials used in the Printing.

Keep in mind that to achieve the objectives that must be met by printed objects with 4D technology,

It is necessary to use special materials because these objects must be able to change their shape according to the external stimuli it receives.

In order for these materials to react to specific triggers and modify their shape, of course, it is necessary to use special materials that can ultimately react to these triggers.

That is why 4D prints are programmable objects that can execute a genetic code before certain stimuli.

What Are The Most Commonly Used 4d Printing Materials

If we were to review what are the most commonly used 4D printing materials are,

We should point out that in most 4D printing systems, a network of fibers is used, which may have different variations depending on the properties of the material, such as well as its size.

Some of the most common materials in this context are hydro reactive hydrogel polymers, which react to contact with water.

Thermo reactive polymers that react to light.

Cellulose compounds, which in most cases react to temperature and moisture.

Digital polymers with shape memory, which allow objects to be created which have the quality of being able to change and then return to recover their original form, among others.

Also used in 4D Printing is the material called LCE, an acronym for the English name Liquid Crystalline Elastomers.

It is a type of soft material that has the quality of being able to execute changes quickly and reversibly, for which they require programming.

The great feature of the LCE material is that objects made with it make changes in their molecular chains.

This allows them to move from a liquid crystal state to a random state of the isotropic type when they receive an external stimulus, such as water, fire, light, electricity, and others.

In science fiction, we could say that the T1000 of the Terminator saga had been manufactured with such a material.

4D printing applications

Perhaps for many of us, when reviewing the basics in relation to 4D printing technology, the change achieved by objects made with it immediately takes us back to science fiction literature and cinema.

In short, 4D Printing is still a field that is at the forefront and in constant growth and development.

That is precisely why a large number of laboratories, companies, universities, scientists, and researchers are dedicated to the study of such technology to be able to take its chances to the fullest.

However, objects have already been developed through this technology, mainly in the creation of prototypes, such as in the field of biofabrication. 

The truth is that among the main applications of 4D Printing we find the following examples that will not take long to become everyday use.

Pharmaceutical industry: 

Use of 4D Printing to create devices that allow patients to explore the blood vessels.

Construction industry: 

Use of 4D Printing for printing 4D bricks that can change their shape, modifying walls according to the needs of users.

Medicine and Biomedicine: 

Use of 4D Printing for the Printing of various elements that allow the creation of prostheses that modify their shape before certain stimuli, artificial human organs could even develop to solve the difficulties that exist in relation to transplants, as well as for the development of stem cells.


Use of 4D Printing for printing roofs and facades of buildings that can adapt to different daily environments, such as day and night, heat and cold, to modify the conditions inside and thus reduce consumption of energies

Transport and logistics: 

Use of 4D Printing to apply modifiable materials to their environments, for example, for printing the packaging in order to protect the transported products from factors such as humidity, temperature, and others.

Textile Industry: 

Use of 4D Printing for the design of clothing and footwear that can change its shape and adapt to different weather conditions, as well as according to the activity that the user is doing.

Computer Industry: 

Use of 4D Printing for the development of hardware elements that can modify their physical form and adapt to the user’s needs, as well as to different environmental conditions.

Other segments: The Printing of adaptable objects through 4D printing technology has virtually no limits.

So in addition to the areas and sciences mentioned above, this technology can be applied to segments such as bioengineering, chemistry, scientific computing, art, and even could not only allow the creation of objects that can change color and shape, as well as expand or contract but also to the point of disappearing.


In spite of the impressive achievements obtained so far by 4D Printing, we are really still far from what this technology can offer us,

Especially when such devices reach the home environment, as 3D Printing did at the time.

Imagine that in a few years we will be able to go to the store and acquire, for example, a pair of printed dress shoes with 4D printing technology and with suitable materials to allow them to adapt, and thus allow these shoes to become sneakers.

The truth is that 4D printing technology has no limits, and if we are surprised by the progress that has been made so far in this area, we must not forget that it is definitely a cutting-edge technology, which still has much to grow.

On the other hand, for the moment both the materials for Printing and 4D printers have really high costs, although in spite of this in the coming years it will surely become a habitual and daily technology, as is already happening with 3D Printing.

Therefore, there is no doubt that 4D printing technology will be a fundamental element within the so-called fourth industrial revolution, which of course, will also imply a profound cultural change of societies that are part of the next generations.

What Is 4D Printing

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *