The team of researchers at MIT have been 3D printing materials that morph into pre-programmable shapes with the introduction of heat or water. These new materials include self-transforming carbon fibre, printed wooden grain, custom textile composites along with other rubber and plastic compounds which offer unprecedented capabilities including programmable actuation, sensing and self-transformation, from a simple material.
Working closely with UK company Carbitex, an advanced materials company with a radical new flexible carbon fibre technology the team have developed a system to produce programmable carbon fibre that can fold, curl, twist and respond to a variety of activation energies. By printing various materials within the flexible carbon fibre grain, the team were able to promote local curvature when subjected to heat, light or moisture. MIT along with a number of partner companies were able to demonstrate the world’s first non-mechanical morphing car airfoil by exploiting the power of programmable materials.
A number of recent technologies have been brought together to enable a breakthrough in material performance. These technologies include: multi-material 3D/4D printing, advances in materials science and new capabilities in simulation/optimisation software. These capabilities have now made it possible to fully program a wide range of materials to change shape, appearance or other property, on demand.