4D Printing to be Worth USD$162M? What?

By on May 13th, 2017 in Ideas

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 4D printed objects can unfold and possibly refold on demand
4D printed objects can unfold and possibly refold on demand

I’m looking at a press release describing what is called “4D Printing” and it seems a bit hard to believe. 

The report, by Market Research Future, deals with what some folks call “4D printing”. The concept is that you 3D print an object, but after printing it can change shape in certain ways, perhaps when applying heat, microwaves, liquids or other applications. It’s feasible that such shape-changing objects could be of some industrial utility in some situations. 

However, when I say “shape-changing”, don’t get too excited. It’s not like a “shape changer” you’d see on Star Trek where a character can instantly become anything else imaginable. No, these 4D objects can very slightly change shape. Think of it like a hinge that can be activated. 

I suppose some very complex objects could be made in this way. I imagine there may be some applications for objects larger than can fit into a 3D printer’s build volume: print them crumpled up and they unfold once removed and activated. 

Another application could be space hardware, where an antenna might have to be unfurled after launch. 

But back to this report. They claim that by 2022, the market for 4D Printing will be approximately USD$163M per year. While that is certainly not billions of dollars and is likely a fraction of 3D printing business taking place five years from now, it’s still a relatively large number. 

USD$163M approximates to around $626K per business day, all year long. 

Who is going to be buying over half a million USD$ in 4D prints each and every day? At this point there is barely research on the topic, let alone applications. 

This topic seems like a stretch for a market report. There isn’t even a market for this stuff yet. 

However, when looking at the other reports from this firm, there are similarly “way out” or very obscure markets being analyzed, including:

  • Intelligent Road System Market Research Report
  • Packaged Water Treatment System Market Research Report
  • Real Compound Chocolate Market Research Report
  • Industrial hand gloves market Research Report
  • Organic Spices Market Research Report
  • Ultra-Low Temperature Freezer Market Research Report
  • Smart Textiles For Military Market Research Report

I believe it is too early to even contemplate 4D printing in any serious market sense. Transforming research into viable products is a fantastically difficult premise that is only occasionally successful. What are the products? What are the applications? Who are the buyers? Who are the manufacturers? Without this information I find it hard to believe such things can be estimated. 

But 4D printing is something that should be investigated further by researchers and entrepreneurs; that’s the stage it’s at today. 

Via SBWire

By Kerry Stevenson

Kerry Stevenson, aka "General Fabb" has written over 8,000 stories on 3D printing at Fabbaloo since he launched the venture in 2007, with an intention to promote and grow the incredible technology of 3D printing across the world. So far, it seems to be working!