3D printing was so last year. As the future of advanced design and manufacturing is taking shape, 4D has emerged as the next big thing in healthcare. Unlike conventional 3D printing, which creates a 3D object that maintains its form, 4D — also called biocompatible 3D printing — goes one step further. When a stimulus, be it water, heat, light, or electric current, triggers a 4D-printed object, the object will change shape. (Think of a cardiac stent that opens up in response to body temperature.) Tiny devices implanted for diagnosis and treatment can now be soft and flexible, making procedures less painful and invasive. From tissue engineering to surgical implants and prosthetics, this new technology is making what was once unimaginable a reality. What's taking shape for biocompatible materials and plastics in the next five to ten years, thanks to this game-changing technology, is anybody's guess. And in Minneapolis, we're putting it in the spotlight.
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