Network of branches 3D printed with Ember's medium settings in 4 hours.
I read a report yesterday that said the 4D printing market (that’s right, not 3D) is expected to reach $555 billion by 2025. Call me pessimistic, but I find forecasts like this a little misleading. So far, I’ve seen 3D printing and I’ve seen what’s been coined as 4D printing but in that time I’ve heard varying explanations for what that actually means. “It’s an object that moves”, “It’s an object that transforms”, “It’s an object that prints itself” – well that’s just confusing. So I find it hard to trust that we’re already estimating how much money this technology is going to be worth when we haven’t really decided what it is.
From what I have seen, 4D printing means an object can change shape or automatically reassemble and one of the best examples of that has been the Kinematics system by U.S. design studio, Nervous System. A key piece in the collection, this dress (right) is printed in a compressed form that unfolds into its intended shape once off the print bed. So cool in fact, the Kinematics dress was on show at an exhibition back in April and designer Jessica Rosenkrantz hadn’t even seen in it the flesh because it had been sent for printing by Materialise in Belgium – ah the magic of digital communication.
In its most recent project, the design studio used a combination of Hyphae, a design tool for network structures, and the Autodesk Ember 3D printer to print very fine, vein like objects. In a blog post the team explains that they wanted to test the DLP SLA printer’s claim of being able to print extremely small details. Jessica writes: “The branches that make up this network go down to .35 millimetres in diameter and the entire thing was printed with no supports… which is good because the result is incredibly fragile so there would be no way to remove them safely.”
The team also experimented with Hyphae by growing a bust image in partnership with Scott Summit and Janne Kyttanen of 3D Systems during a workshop at the Museum of Craft and Design. Taking part in a Google Hangout where each participant created something from a 3D scan of a person’s head at the museum, Nervous System created a series of structures that show nature-like growth in the form of a human head. The results are truly striking and demonstrate how this “growth” quality with 3D printing can produce unique, organic structures.
3D printed bust.