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4D Printing Miner is a new Minerazzi miner available now at


Use it to find resources relevant to 4D Printing. As with all of our miners, you may use it to recrawl individual search results and build your own curated collections on this fascinating new disruptive technology.

Search Examples: Do a search with the miner for the following keywords: [ polymers ], [ printing materials ], and so forth.

Why a miner on 4D Printing?

Good question. Here is why: If you think that 3D printing is hot, think again because 4D Printing is here to rock the World!

4D Printing is right now revolutionizing many industries, fields, and disciplines: manufacturing, construction, medical research, biopharma, architecture, design, the arts, engineering, and computing, to mention a few.

What is 4D Printing?

4D Printing is one form of Programmable Matter (PM) technology. According to Wikipedia, the “programmable matter” term was coined in 1991 (1).

Skylar Tibbits, through his 2010 MS thesis “Logic Matter: digital logic as heuristics for physical self-guided assembly” (2), established the basis for a new technology: 4D Printing. Tibbits is a young Research Scientist, at MIT Department of Architecture and Director of the Self-Assembly Lab (3) at MIT. He is also credited of inventing the term “4D Printing”. I’m right now reading his fascinating thesis in pdf format. Simply awesome.

A light definition of 4D printing: Objects 3D-printed that evolve in time under environmental stimuli. In other words, 4D Printing is 3D printing with Time as the additional dimension.

So 4D-printed objects can evolve in time and change its molecular structures or mechanical, electrical, optical, or magnetic properties. All the changes are done without human intervention, but with environmental stimuli. Imagine building things that build themselves in the presence of a solvent (e.g, water), light, temperature changes, etc.

I guess you got the idea as to why, as this novel technology is impacting so many industries and sciences, MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab has the following partners and sponsors, among others:


and many more.

What is Self-Assembly?

Tibbits and co-workers define this process as follows (3):

“Self-Assembly is a process by which disordered parts build an ordered structure through local interaction. We have demonstrated that this phenomenon is scale-independent and can be utilized for self-constructing and manufacturing systems at nearly every scale. We have also identified the key ingredients for self-assembly as a simple set of responsive building blocks, energy and interactions that can be designed within nearly every material and machining process available. Self-assembly promises to enable breakthroughs across every applications of biology, material science, software, robotics, manufacturing, transportation, infrastructure, construction, the arts, and even space exploration. The Self-Assembly Lab is working with academic, commercial, nonprofit, and government partners, collaborators, and sponsors to make our self-assembling future a reality. ”

Programmable Matter Defined

As stated by Campbell, Tibbits, and Garrett in the May, 2014 report of the Atlantic Council of the United States (4, 5):

“Programmable matter (PM) is the science, engineering, and design of physical matter that has the ability to change form and/or function (shape, density, moduli, conductivity, color, etc.) in an intentional, programmable fashion. PM may come in at least two forms: (1) objects made of pre-connected elements that are 4D printed or otherwise assembled as one complete structure for self-transformation, and (2) unconnected voxels that can come together or break apart autonomously to form larger programmable structures. PM encompasses, yet goes beyond, a range of technological capabilities–including 3D printing, micro-robotics, smart materials, nanotechnology, and micro-electromechanical systems (MEMS), to name a few. ”

Useful Applications for 4D Printing

There are many. As noted by Achuth Rao (6):

“4D printing allows the manufacture of objects that transform with time, essentially allowing objects to be “programmed” to behave in certain manner. The prospects of such programmable materials are numerous:”

“On space missions astronauts can take 4D printed objects with them which can transform into desired objects/structures despite the harshness of space.”

“For plumbing & sewage structures, 4D printed pipes will have the ability to expand or contract depending on the amount of water passing through them.”

“In medicine, 4D printing could reduce surgical procedures by enabling doctors to inject self-transforming materials into the body.”

From Pixels to Voxels

A voxel is a volumetric pixel that defines the fundamental unit of digital space and programmable matter. These can be both digital (computational representation in 3D models) and physical (consisting of raw materials like integrated circuits, biomaterials, micro-robotics, titanium, nanomaterials, etc).

From Programming the Matter to Hacking the Matter: New Security Challenges

4D Printing opens the door to a new science: Programming the Matter. It also opens the door to new challenges: Hacking the Matter. That is to say that if matter can be programmed to change in time, it could also be hacked.

Hacking programmable matter presents new challenges to governments and the society in general. Imagine someone trying to hack a material that evolves in time so it becomes a different shape or adopts different characteristics in time and space. Imagine that once hacked the new shape becomes something else that could disrupt communications, services, or cause harm to humans. Three example suffices:

(a) hacking a programmable PM drug dispenser inside a human body so it dispenses more than the expected or morphs into a weapon.
(b) changing parts of a morphable transportation vehicle (car, train, airplane).
(c) modifying morphable components of clothing, engineered parts, etc.

PM technologies in the hands of terrorists or hostile governments is indeed a very bad thing as can be concluded from the Atlantic Council report (4, 5). In the right hands, as mentioned before, PM technologies and 4D Printing in particular, is set to rock the World!


Imagine Programmable Matter, by means of 4D Printing or other PM technologies, with an Artificial Intelligence component that under the morphological changes in time is also a self-learner, capable of making decisions…

To learn more about this incredible technology and research field, visit the Self-Assembly Lab site (3).


1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmable_matter

2. http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/64566

3. http://www.selfassemblylab.net/

4. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/images/publications/The_Next_Wave_4D_Printing_Programming_the_Material_World.pdf

5. http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/publications/reports/the-next-wave-4d-printing-and-programming-the-material-world

6. https://chemical-materials.elsevier.com/new-materials-applications/the-shape-of-things-to-come-programmable-materials/