4D Printing Progress for Shapeshifting Biomedical Implants and Soft Robots

Soft robots and biomedical implants that can reconfigure themselves on demand are a step closer to reality thanks to a new way to print shapeshifting materials from a Rice University  lab. Researchers there have developed a method to print objects that can be manipulated to take on alternate forms when exposed to changes in temperature, stress, or electric current, which they think of as reactive 4D printing. The lab’s challenge was to create a liquid crystal polymer “ink” that incorporates mutually exclusive sets of chemical links between molecules. One establishes the original printed shape, and the other can be set by physically manipulating the dried, printed material. Curing the alternate form under UV light locks in those links.