What is 4D printing going to do to the concrete industry?

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What you need to know

3D printing is the action that is undertaken when making a physical object through a three-dimensional digital model, simply by laying down many thin layers of a material in succession. But what makes 4D printing the new trend in the concrete industry, is that it uses the 3D printed structures to change the shape over time?

The application of 4D printed objects will be limitless. According to Monash University researchers, they have found that 4D printed products would create medical devices that can transform and manipulate its shape inside the human body, or even create water pipes that can expand or contract depending on the demands for the products.


Rise of 4D printing

Skylar Tibbits is an architect who’s focused on taking 4D printing to the next level. The inventor has stated that 4D printing in the traditional construction industry will be challenging, but it does have the potential to succeed. If self-assembling materials are used in disaster areas or extreme environments, not only will it be conventional, but the construction will not be expensive.

The imagination and use of 4D printing will take each industry into new heights, if used properly. The inventor has stated that, in the near future it is possible for products such as sneakers, to change its shape and function in response to how they are being used. Although it may seem like 4D printing has its advantages, it does face realistic constraints. However, these constraints will open up new opportunities and it will create breakthroughs in the upcoming years.


New age for the concrete industry

4D printing can be described as creating an object with memory-like properties. These memory like properties allows the product to change its shape and form under different environmental conditions. Currently 4D printing has not been applied to the concrete industry, but researchers and inventors are in the process conducting their analysis on concrete materials itself. These materials include: Tile, Cement, Reinforced Concrete, Limestone & Gabion.

As stated, when an object comes in contact with a change in the environment, it plays a role in manipulating the material to change shape. When trials were conducted on pipes, experts have found that, they were able to encode it to expand or shrink to help with the flow of water; bricks were used to shift in order to accommodate more or less stress on a given wall.


Elastic properties in concrete can characterise the mechanical response of the material body for applied stresses. When a very large stress is applied, it can fracture the material. 4D printing can manipulate the material to handle the excess stress that is formed when pressures have been applied. These materials have been labelled as “smart materials” that can transform itself based on a variety of energies.