Material programming for 4D-printing

Material programming denotes a design method in which functions such as movement are encoded in the physical material and fabrication logic, in place of electronics and digital control. Plants respond to their surroundings because of their functionally graded internal structures — similarly, when materials are structured at the meso-scale, they can be programmed to change shape in response to the environment.

This talk introduces my doctoral research on creating a material programming framework for 4D-printing engineered systems with nature-inspired functionalities. Through a series of case studies ranging from adaptive orthotics to climate-responsive architecture, I will present the computational design and fused filament fabrication of self-shaping material systems that adapt to air humidity without consuming any energy, based on the differentiated structures of plants.

A presentation by Tiffany Cheng, Doctoral Researcher at Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD).


Question 1: What drives you?
I am driven by the small but important role I play in advancing our collective scientific knowledge.

Question 2: Why should the delegate attend your presentation?
You might be surprised at some of nature’s design strategies, and how simple it can be to emulate them.

Question 3: What emerging technologies/trends do you see as having the greatest potential in the short and long run?
Therapeutic applications in 4D-printed orthoses show promise, as they can be customized to fit and adapt over time to a patient and specific pathologies.

Question 4: What kind of impact do you expect them to have?
Besides wearable tech, 4D-printed façade systems that adaptively shade and ventilate without electrical power could serve as a solution to resource-efficient climate control in buildings.

Question 5: What are the barriers that might stand in the way?
Applying 4D-printing research to practice would require further investigation in controlling the timing and sequence of self-shaping, as well as the development of new stimuli-responsive materials.

About Tiffany Cheng
Tiffany researches 4D-printing and bio-inspired self-shaping at the ICD. Interested in the intersections between computation, materials, and robotics, she creates digital-physical workflows that allow the mass-customization of material properties, behavior, and performance. Previously, Tiffany worked with the MaP+S Group at Harvard GSD to develop materially informed robotic fabrication strategies for bespoke carbon-fiber systems. Her professional experience ranges from architecture and interaction design to electronics production and embedded programming. Tiffany received her Master in Design Studies (Technology) from Harvard University. She holds a Bachelor of Architecture and Minor in Digital Studies from the University of Southern California.

About Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD)Civic university
The Institute for Computational Design and Construction (ICD) is dedicated to the teaching and research of computational design and computer-aided manufacturing processes in architecture.

The ICD’s goal is to prepare students for the continuing advancement of computational processes in architecture, as they merge the fields of design, engineering, planning and construction. The interrelation of such topics is exposed as both a technical and intellectual venture of formal, spatial, constructional and ecological potentials. Through teaching, the ICD establishes a practical foundation in the fundamentals of parametric and algorithmic design strategies. This provides a platform for further exploration into the integrative use of computational processes in architectural design, with a particular focus on integrative methods for the generation, simulation and evaluation of comprehensive information-based and performance oriented models.

There are two primary research fields at the ICD: the theoretical and practical development of generative computational design processes, and the integral use of computer-controlled manufacturing processes with a particular focus on robotic fabrication. These topics are examined through the development of computational methods which balance the reciprocities of form, material, structure and environment, and integrate technological advancements in manufacturing for the production of performative material and building systems.

Tiffany Cheng is speaker at the 2022 edition of the 4D Printing & Meta Materials Conference.

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