Questions for ‘How to print shape shifters’

This black strand (top) folds itself into a box when it's immersed in water. It's an example of 4-D printing, a new technology to print solid objects that interact with the environment. 

Self-Assembly Lab/MIT/Stratasys Ltd./Autodesk Inc.

To accompany feature ‘How to print shape shifters


Before reading:

1.      How would you build a robot? What kind of parts would you need? How might you get them to move on their own?

2.      What would be some advantages of having an object that could change its shape or color in response to changes in the environment?

During reading:

1.      What is the difference between an object created with 3-D printing and one made with 4-D printing?

2.      Name three potential applications of 4-D printing.

3.      Why do scientists say that 4-D printed objects can be “smart” or “intelligent”?

4.      What do 4-D printed objects have in common with carnivorous plants?

5.      How did 4-D printing help children with tracheobronchomalacia?

6.      Why might 4-D printed materials have less waste than materials produced using other methods?

7.      What can the plastic sheets created in Qi’s lab do?

8.      What are two obstacles to 4-D printing?

After reading:

1.      With a partner, brainstorm three objects that could be created through 4-D printing. What would these objects do? How would they move or change? What would be the benefits of creating such objects through 4-D printing?

2.      What kinds of problems would 4-D printing be useful to help solve?

3.      Today, computer printers are common in schools, offices and homes. Do you think 4-D printers will ever become as common? Explain how you came to your prediction.