There are 3-D printers that build things up, adding one sliver of plastic at a time, and 3-D mills that tear things down, grinding away one small chunk at a time. But Skylar Tibbits today offered a very provocative alternative: technology for 3-D printing where the chunks start separated and intelligently arrange themselves into basically any object.
MIT’s Skylar Tibbits showing a self-folding strand on stage at the TED conference Tuesday. Click to enlarge. Photo: TED/Flickr Tibbits’ latest technology for so-called “4-D printing,” unveiled during a talk at the TED conference today in Long Beach, California, uses water to activate and power strands of material that fold themselves into desired shapes. It will be developed in part by the new MIT Self Assembly Lab — to be headed by Tibbits and also announced during his talk — and also by Stratasys, a Minnesota- and Israel-based maker of 3-D printers. Tibbits, a faculty member at the MIT Department of Architecture, is also working with Autodesk on software to program 4-D printing systems.