4-D printing which is also called as 4- dimensional printing or active origami uses the same techniques that are used in 3-D printing which is made possible through computer programmed deposition of materials in successive layers to create a 3D object. However, 4D printing adds the dimension of time which means the printed product changes it’s form after reacting to various environmental factors such as pH, temperature, water, light and some other forms of energy and factors. 4D printing also requires some special materials such as hydrogels, shape memory polymers which can reacts to triggers. 4D printing makes use of different materials which possess different properties and react to different environmental factors, those materials include thermo-responsive, moisture-responsive, photo-responsive and other materials. Basically 4D printing is an extension of 3D printing technology which provides users with the benefits such as enhanced efficiency, quality and performance capabilities.4D printing also improves the overall speed of the manufacturing cycle. 4D printing technology has many uses in different industries and can revolutionize the way they work. It finds applications in automotive, aerospace and defense, healthcare and other industries.
Current Scenario in 4D printing Space:
1) The need for 4D printing to rise in coming years
3D printing technology has been is use for quite some time now and has applications in many industries providing with quality and efficient solutions 4D printing, which belongs to the semiconductor category, is relatively new and a significant improvement over 3D printing. 4D printing holds immense potential to grow over the coming years. The demand for better and efficient materials and improving the efficiency and speed of the manufacturing cycle are some factors which will play a role in the growth of the 4D printing market. Moreover, unlike 3D printing which is used for making static structures, 4D printing can be used to create structures whose shape and form can be altered and can be used for a wide variety of applications according to the requirement of the process.
2) Research and development in 4D printing to unlock more possibilities
Major companies, industries, and sectors are starting to prefer and demand the more advanced 4D printing due to that fact that they are very useful in optimizing various manufacturing lifecycle and improving the quality of the product. This demand is facilitated by all the advancements and improving technologies 4D printing in the past few years and investments made in the market. Thus, increasing the participation of big players along with the entry of new players to research and develop 4D printing further to better understand and make use of it is set to propel the 4D printing market growth. For example, The United States Army Research Office has provided around $855,000 in grants to the researchers of Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the University of Illinois and the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering to develop 4D materials for military advancements. In 2018, BMW and MIT developed an inflatable material that changed shape and size under the effect of air pulses for use in automotive applications. Doctors at the University of Michigan’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital have developed a 4D printed airway splint for infants suffering from tracheobroncomalacia, a condition that cause the windpipe to collapse, so in this situation the airway splints can keep the trachea open can open up to twice their size and aid children until the children are strong enough. Also, Airbus is working with MIT to develop a component for the inlet of air that would be made using carbon fiber, that would automatically adjust to control the airflow which can be used to cool the engine, due to which the fuel consumption will decrease , thus improving fuel efficeincy and also the heavy mechanical control required will be removed.
3) Different Sectors to show growth
There are some industries which will benefit from the use of 4D printing technology which would enhance and increase the efficiency of products and processes. Like in the healthcare sector, the 4D printing technology can be used for the development of intelligent devices, implants, tissue engineering, self assembling biomaterials, and nanorobots for chemotherapy. As there is increasing demand for development of some implants which grow with the patient or implants which can change it’s shape and body size according to the changing environment of the body can effectively aid in patient treatment will help bolster the market growth. Moreover, as the investment in regenerative medicine is increasing, it will also boost the market growth of 4D printing. In the aerospace and defense industry, 4D printing facilitates different applications such as self-deploying structures for air ventilation, engine cooling and other purposes, it can also be used to create advanced materials and composites that take a definite shape or perform a particular function. In fact, the market analysis shows that the 4D printing is finding it’s way into every major sector slowly and gradually which means that in a few years there 4D printing would find it’s way in numerous industries making different processes easier and improving the qualities and properties of products.
Currently, thermo-responsive 4D printing holds a significant share in this market and is anticipated to witness a fast growth rate in the upcoming years due to the burgeoning demand from many countries and industries. With respect to current market trends, it is anticipated that the software-based robotic vision systems will flourish in the upcoming years with demand being generated from various regions and sectors. The growing need for better printing and manufacturing technology such as 4D printing which ensure that a process is completed efficiently, with reduced labor costs and within the least time and produces high quality end product will continue to play a central role in driving this market and will attract a lot of new entrants who will bring new and better changes in 4D printing. Thus, the market will remain competitive in the upcoming years and it is projected to show modest growth in the upcoming years.