Active Printed Materials for Complex Self-Evolving Deformations
We propose a new design of complex self-evolving structures that vary over time due to environmental interaction.
Project Description

This page can also be viewed on Dan Raviv’s personal webpage:

Double curvature teaser
Additive Manufacturing (aka: 3D printing) is one of the emerging fields in the 21st century.
Now, imagine we add ‘time’ into the equation …

                       Bending                    MIT to SAL

                             Bending primitive                    1D pre-programmed bending


Ramesh Raskar, Associate Professor, MIT Media Lab; Group PI (raskar(at)
Dan Raviv, Postdoctoral Associate, MIT Media Lab; Project Director (darav(at)
Achuta Kadambi, PhD candidate, MIT Media Lab;  (achoo(at)
Shi Boxin, Postdoctoral Associate, MIT Media Lab;  (shiboxin(at)


Wei Zhao, Autodesck, Inc.
Carrie McKnelly, Self Assembly Laboratory, MIT.
Athina Papadopoulou, Self Assembly Laboratory, MIT.
Shai Hirsch, Stratasys, Ltd.
Daniel Dikovsky, Stratasys, Ltd.
Carlos Olguin, Autodesc, Inc.
Skylar Tibbits, Self Assembly Laboratory; Group PI.

       Sin               Hyper

2D bending                                                                              2D bending and stretching

Video – full version

Double Curvature
Double Curvature Bending and Stretching


Dan Raviv, Wei Zhao, Carrie McKnelly, Athina Papadopoulou, Achuta Kadambi, Boxin Shi, Shai Hirsch,
Daniel Dikovsky, Michael Zyracki, Carlos Olguin, Skylar Tibbits, Ramesh Raskar.
“Active Printed Materials for Complex Self-Evolving Deformations” Nature / Scientific Reports, December 2014,, [Local copy]


We propose a new design of complex self-evolving structures that vary over time due to environmental interaction. In conventional 3D printing systems, materials are meant to be stable rather than active and fabricated models are designed and printed as static objects. Here, we introduce a novel approach for simulating and fabricating self-evolving structures that transform into a predetermined shape, changing property and function after fabrication. The new locally coordinated bending primitives combine into a single system,
allowing for a global deformation which can stretch, fold and bend given environmental stimulus.


We propose a “design- Fabrication-Simulation workflow for self-evolving structures. Our main contributions lie in three aspects:
•    Design:
We propose a computational approach for designing self-evolving structures that vary over time due to environmental interaction.
•    Fabrication:
We provide an implementable framework by specifying readily printable self-evolving elements that pair with computational models.
•    Simulation:
We realistically imitate the deformation of the materials for enhancing design capabilities.


                                                    (A) Linear Streching Primitive
(B) Ring Stretching Primitive
(C) Bending Primitive
Different deformations – only bending
Double curvatureDouble curvature deformation. (A) Real images. (B) Simulations

High resolution photos and video

Connex 500 multi-material printer
Non-linear simulations sketches
Bending deformations
Double curvature deformation
Video (.mov)
Video (.mp4)

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I print 3D models at home?
Additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) was invented more than 30 years ago. Today such printers are below 1K for the simple versions while more advnaced ones (better accuracy, bigger/smaller model sizes, speed, multi-material etc) can be found in industry and cost much more.

What is the 4’th dimension in the term 4D printing?
The additional dimension is time. If we print 3D models with materials that change their properties due to environmental stimulus then the shape will alter over time and transform from one formation to another.

What enviromental stimulus can be used?
In this work we used water absorption, but other triggers can be used, such as chimical stimulus, pressurised fluids or gasses, temperature, or light.

How did you print those models?
We used Staratasys Connex 500 Multi-Material 3D printer.

Why is it important?
This is work is just a proof of concept for self-transforming structures. We belive that in the future we will see more complex models that can improve home applicances, childcare, cloth, footware and even helathcare products, just mentioning a few.
We are just in the beginning of the 3D printing revolution, and it will take time to understand its full potential.

News Stories

MIT News:
The Conversation:

Project Details