Additive manufacturing technologies in recent decades has witnessed disruptive trends heralded by advances in 3D printing. With the vast potential of creating three-dimensional object of varied geometries or shapes, 3D printing processes has gained wide traction in diverse consumer market verticals and in the healthcare sector. While the market for 3D continue to take strides opening up new applications and processes, adding another exciting dimension is 4D printing, poised to become the technology of the future.
Considered as the game-changing printing technology in the market, 4D enables transformation of structures, in shape and form, with time by responding to various stimuli, such as changes in temperature, humidity, and a range of other environmental parameters. Some amazing applications are in making temperature-driven cardiac stents, infection-activated drug capsules and programmable flat-pack furniture.
The ability to self-deform with time is key to the limitless programmability of matter, leading 4D application to create solids with innovative functional performance never witnessed before. The 4D technique has opened up a new paradigm in biofabrication technology, supporting a variety of exciting advances in construction, manufacturing, and product assembly.
Which set of factors are at the forefront to support the rapid evolution of 4D printing technology?
The unprecedented rise in scope for new product development in various application areas, notably healthcare, military and defense, automotive, and aerospace is driving the evolution of 4D technology and processes. With many an exciting avenue in its offing, the market for 4D printing is anticipated to collect attractive revenues globally during the forecast period of 2016–2024, according to estimates by Transparency Market Research.
The ever-rising need to reduce the cost of manufacturing and processing of materials to create solids of unprecedented performance and capability is a notable factor underpinning the expansion of 4D printing technologies. 4D processes confer manufacturers striking freedom working with shape-memory polymers and hydrogels by enabling them to create innovative configurations of potential use. This stands as a compelling proposition driving the evolution of the market. Various end users such as transportation, renewable energy, and the medical industries will be quick to leverage 4D printing technology to create objects using 3D printers for high-performance applications.
To keep the momentum of the market’s growth exciting, market players have to address concerns such as intellectual property rights, lack of persuasion for policy holders, and the substantially high cost of development. However, over time, the advances being made by technology will take these concerns it its stride.
Which regions are presenting promising avenues for the adoption of 4D printing technology?
Some of the key regional markets witnessing attractive demand for 4D printing can be the Middle East and Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and North America. Of these, North America is a potentially lucrative region, presenting ample opportunities to capitalize on by key and emerging players. The regional market is also characterized by the large appetite for innovative manufacturing technologies, especially in the U.S. Relentless research by engineers and scientists into making the technology more useful and commercially viable also augurs well for the regional market.
Substantial focus on development activities pertaining to innovative approaches has considerably fueled the advances being made by 4D printing technology. For instance, researchers at the Rutgers University, an American public research university, has demonstrated a 4D printing approach to fast and scalable 3D printed hydrogels. Considered as smart gels, these water-containing gels made with the help of 4D technique can be used to make human organs with amazing structural rigidity in human organs. This will pave way for exciting advances in soft robot manufacturing and innovative targeted drug delivery.
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Apart from this, Asia Pacific is emerging at a promising pace bringing many a lucrative avenues for players in the market. The recurrent focus of end-use industries to adopt manufacturing technologies for new product development is expected to expand the regional market.