UK Team Experiments with 4D Printing Fabrication of Artificial Muscles

3D printing technology has impacted scientific research significantly, especially when it comes to replicating the inner workings of living beings. Recently, in the case of a team of researchers based at UK’s Nottingham Trent University, the replication of organic structures is taking on a whole new dimension.

4D Printing can be defined as the combined use of advanced 3D printing technology and the change of form over time. With their own version of 4D printing, Fergal B. Coulter and Anton Ianakiev are exploring the fabrication of artificial muscle by creating a system for producing seamless tubular silicone membranes with dielectric elastomer actuators (DEA), a form of electroactive polymer that induces a change in form. Coulter and Ianakiev describe the DEAs as “essentially flexible capacitors”, sending low energy electric signals to the flexible tubular structure and causing it to change its form. The team believes that the 3D printed muscles can eventually be used within soft biorobotic devices, creating flexible muscle-like functions at the cost of little energy.Read more