Jul 18, 2017 | By Tess

A team of researchers from the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore has created a 3D printed flower that actually blooms when it is exposed to light. The 3D printed structure integrates a shape memory composite and photoresponsive substances which enable this reaction.

The research, recently published in the journal Advanced Materials, was led by materials scientist Xiaodong Chen. Together with his team of chemists, Chen set out to create a stimuli-responsive 3D printed object which could respond to something other than temperature changes.

Often called 4D printing, the process of printing transformative objects is becoming increasingly popular, as researchers are seeing the potential to use such objects in areas like biomimetics and soft robotics. Up until now, however, most 4D printed structures have been designed to react to temperature or humidity changes. With this latest project, the Singapore-based researchers are hoping to open the field up to using chemical changes or light as stimuli.

The 3D printed flower is made from a modified polyurethane material which has shape memory properties that allow the printed shape to transform back into its original shape when exposed to light. More specifically, the polyurethane material was mixed with tiny amounts of carbon black, a light-responsive material derived from the incomplete combustion of certain heavy petroleum products.

When the 3D printed flower structure is exposed to a light source (including the sun), the carbon black in the plastic material generates heat, which in turn activates the polyurethane’s shape memory behavior. When exposed to the sun or a xenon lamp, the plastic flower blooms in only minutes, mimicking natural heliotropism. This can be seen in a video of the flower.

According to the study’s abstract, “External illumination triggers the shape recovery of 3D printed devices from the temporary shape to the original shape. The effect of materials thickness and light density on the shape memory behavior of 3D printed devices is quantified and calculated. Remarkably, sunlight also triggers the shape memory behavior of these 3D printed devices.”

The study, entitled “3D Printed Photoresponsive Devices Based on Shape Memory Composites” can be accessed in full here. If you want to learn more about 4D printing, check out the following:



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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