6 Future Applications of 3D Printing

3D printing is quickly developing into one of the most influential manufacturing technologies used across various industries. The rapid adoption we are witnessing now will only increase in the years to come. In this article, let’s take a look at six interesting future applications of 3D printing.

Soft Sensors &

Soft sensors and actuators are a huge space where scientists are looking to apply 3D printing technology. Any such application requires automation and the ability to act independently. While manufacturing such systems is easy via 3D printing, operating them is still a challenge.

Scientists are now looking at 4D printing – a recent branch of 3D printing that deals in printing with smart and active materials. These 4D printed objects respond to external stimuli by changing shapes. Examples of such stimuli for 4D printing include:

Heat – Heat is one of the most popular stimuli for 4D
printed objects. A 4D printing material can change its shape on exposure to
heat. These materials called Shape memory materials (SMM) can be efficiently
programmed to act in a certain way when they are heated above their glass
transition temperature (Tg). Shape memory materials can
be further divided into Shape Memory Alloys & Shape Memory Polymers, Shape
Memory Ceramics (SMC), Shape Memory Gels (SMG) and Shape Memory Hybrids (SMH).

Light – Light is also one of the most common stimuli
for 4D printed objects. A photosensitive material responds to light in the form
of heat. They can then change their shape with regards to how much heat they
absorb from the light. In this case, mostly the joints absorb light and that
corresponds to the color of the joint.

Magnetism – These are the materials that respond to
external magnetic stimuli. The materials are infused with magnetic
nanoparticles so that the 4D printed part will respond to the applied magnetic

Electricity – Electricity or current is also an external
stimulus for 4D printed objects. When a current is
applied, heat is generated and the object then behaves in a certain programmed
way to respond to these stimuli.

Moisture – Moisture can also be a stimulus since there are a lot of hygroscopic materials available and in use in manufacturing. This property of the material is of interest to researchers. Hydrogels are such materials and moisture allows them to expand up to 200% of their original volume. Hydrogels are perfect for 3D printing. But most importantly they are biocompatible and this is what makes the material interesting.

4D printed objects have shown great potential in applications involving actions such as grasping, sorting tasks, climbing or crawling agents, search and rescue missions, and hydrogel-based drug delivery.