Last year, Skylar Tibbits at the MIT and researchers from the firms Stratasys and a major 3rd party CAD provider went further in the 3D printing technologies and developed 4D printing.

What is 4D printing?

4D printing is 3D printing plus the “time” dimension. 4D printed parts are objects that can transform, change shape or self-assemble over time or when confronted with a change in its environment.


Picture courtesy of

For more information see the video: Skylar Tibbits: The emergence of “4D printing”

What amazing opportunities could 4D printing technology bring to the fashion world?

The range of opportunities is large. For example:

–       Sneakers that change shape and function in response to how they’re being used (running, walking, jumping, etc.).
–       Clothes that adapt to the form of the body, and/or change color and properties depending on its environment (weather, danger, etc.).
–       Jewelry parts that are 3D printed and self-assembled.
–       Dresses that are printed in one piece despite being much larger than the space inside the printer and conform flexibly to the body.
–       Jewelry that automatically adapt to the form of the body.

These two last examples are already a reality. Nervous System, a design studio, is already experimenting with this new technology and has created Kinematics, a software tool for 4D printing addressed to the mass market. For the moment, it is only possible to buy flexible jewelry and to create jewelry designs.


Picture courtesy of Nervous System

But they are now working on a new project to create large objects in a small 3D printer. This could be used to print clothes. The client is 3D scanned, which allows the designer to draw the form of the dress based on the 3D model of the body. Once the design is completed, it is compressed so it fits into a 3D printer.


Picture courtesy of The Times

4D printing is the next big thing

An amazing range of opportunities ahead, 4D printing is the next big thing, and the United States Army is aware of it. It is providing funding for 4D printing, investing up $855,000 to researchers at Harvard’s School of Engineering & Applied Science, The University of Illinois, and The University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering.
One of the areas where the Army Research Office would like to apply this technology is textile: Clothing that could adapt and change color to camouflage a soldier, bend light to hide them and change permeability or hardness to protect them according to the environment.


Picture courtesy of Jim Kinsey/Kryptek

This post is also available in: French


  1. Great information. Lucky me I recently found your blog by accident. I LOVE the geek chic section, the 3d print and the wearable tech one.
    I’ve book marked it!
    thanks guys

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