4D Printers: Shapeshifting the future
They were 2014's must-have accessory for advertising agency sandpits and labs, but some of us spent the year wondering how 3D printers could deliver for clients and become nice little earners along the way.
Now if reports from livescience.com are anything to go by, they could already be a thing of the past, ending up on Gumtree faster than you can say 'jousting sticks'.
Whereas today's 3D printers create items from a single material such as plastic, glass, metal, chocolate or even living cells, 4D printers create structures capable of, as such, shapeshifting.
Part of the trick lies in how 4D printers use a mash-up of multiple materials with entirely different properties; like a rigid plastic combined with a water-absorbent fabric which transmogrifies into a complex structure that replicates the behaviour of human joints when submerged in water.
The implications for everything from bio-compatible implants to environmentally-reactive fabrics and, of course, brand packaging are intriguing.
In the meantime, if you see a 3D printer for $9,900 ONO ... tell 'em they're dreaming!