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4D Printing and a New Wave of Office Technology

Technology advancement never ceases to amaze business professionals when it comes to everyday practical use.  Remember the days where office equipment technology was at its infancy?  As the 21st century surges forward we as the workforce are becoming more reluctant to work in an environment where office equipment doesn’t provide a competitive edge. Office equipment has driven innovation in communications, working styles and even in the value placed on certain skill sets.  Geography is no longer a barrier to doing business, nor are business travelers cut off from communications infrastructure that support their work.  It is difficult to predict the office and landscape of the 21st century. Trends point to smarter and faster technology that will be capable of carrying out more complex functions with minimal human input.

Additive manufacturing (3D printing) is itself an emerging technology and has in fact been around for over 30 years! It is continuously being reported that 3D printing is now becoming more mainstream, but is still very heavily underutilized in the business world, considering its potential.  The potential to economically and time efficiently 3D print ANYTHING is an irresistible proposition. 3D printed materials is not the end of the story though, there are techniques to create materials/objects which can be pre-programmed to operate in a certain way.  Pretty amazing technology, what if I told you there is technology being worked on that would make 3D printing a thing of the past?

4D printing may be bursting onto the scene and leaving people in absolute awe.  Think of 4D printing as the same as 3D printing with the addition of time. By adding time to 3D printing the concept of 4D printing is born. This enables objects to be pre-programmed in various ways to react to a range of different stimuli.

4D printing is futuristic and a very exciting future at that. 4D printing delivers the possibility of designing ANY transformable shape, which can be made from a large selection of materials. These different materials will have many different properties and a range of potential applications and uses. There is a real opportunity for the creation of dynamic self-assembling objects which could transform and be used in a wide range of industries and in a large number of applications.

Research has cited examples such as the water systems of office buildings reshaping itself to efficiently allow water to be processed with minimal cost.  That very same office building can house a company that develop 4D sportswear/sports equipment that adapts its shape to its user and how they are performing when their body temperature of environment changes around them.  The possibilities seem endless. As time goes on 4D printing may just end up being available at your finger tips literally.  The cup you drink from, the desk you use for your work station to office building production.

4D Printing will play a key role in future production.  Making this happen on a human scale, is much more challenging, particularly in more traditional industries, such as building construction.  There is potential,in using self-assembling materials in disaster areas or extreme environments where conventional construction is not feasible or too expensive however. We might one day experience a future of adaptive infrastructure. In extreme cases we can apply this technology to  geographic locations that are notorious for producing earthquakes.  Just imagine where technology has come from.  If we can help save lives based on a concept that originated over 30 years ago.  Maybe one day constructing a building from 4D printing will be the norm.  Now that is technology.