logo (1)As 3D printing has barely slid into the category of being considered a new normal, some scientists and researchers are already living in the world of 4D.

You may have noticed that there’s a lot of nano-talk lately, as in nanoparticles, nanotechnology, and even nanolithography. And it’s not going to stop anytime soon–especially not at Northwestern University’s International Institute for Nanotechnology. The department has just been awarded $8.5 million in funding by the US Department of Defense for a project that will last over the next five years as part of the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) program.

GaN_NanowiressidebarToday’s project at hand deals with developing tomorrow’s research equipment–the 4D printer–meant to operate at the nanoscale, serving to further materials sciences, chemistry, and defense-related fields with numerous smart materials that are sensitive also to other materials, signals, and environment. The 4D printed objects are able to transform and morph to fulfill other functions, due to encoded information on nanomaterials. The printers themselves work through a team of pens producing the materials which can act on numerous levels as it is imbued with electronic and chemical elements.

Milan Mrksich is not only a co-principal investigator on the grant, but is also the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry and Cell and Molecular Biology, and has appointments in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Weinberg and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Ultimately, the 4-D printer will provide a foundation for a new generation of tools to develop novel architectures, wherein the hard materials that form the functional components of electronics can be merged with biological or soft materials,” said Mrksich.

UntitledIt’s also hoped that the issue of affordability will be dealt with as this type of complex printing and combining of materials has not been able to get to the next level due to enormous expense.

“Researchers at Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology have a history of developing the state-of-the-art tools enabling nanotechnology. This new 4-D printing effort represents a wonderful example of a multi-institutional collaboration that capitalizes on such expertise and couples it with expertise at other institutions,” said Jay Walsh, vice president for research at Northwestern.

The IIN is the first of its kind, with a dedication to using nanoscience to solve some of the greatest issues the world faces in nearly every sector, from medicine to transportation. The energy, innovation, and outreach stemming from the IIN has not remained just there as they have been responsible for spurring on numerous startups and innovative products. One can only imagine what will come from this multi-million dollar research grant from the DoD.

Discuss your thoughts on 4D printing and how you think smart materials will affect the future in the Northwestern’s IIN Receive $8.5 Million to Explore 4D Printing forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

 

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