Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Archive for October, 2013

Engineering Design Enters the 4th Dimension

Posted by Duren_Thompson on October 23, 2013

3D chemical model - stick and ball  imageOK, this is really revolutionary!

Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a polymer and a process which allows the production of an object fixed in one shape that can later be changed to take on a new shape given thermal, chemical or mechanical forces.  And these shapes are determined at the design stage – essentially adding a “time” component to the 3D printing/production process.

Their real life example:

“…a solar panel or similar product could be produced in a flat configuration onto which functional devices can be easily installed. It could then be changed to a compact shape for packing and shipping. After arriving at its destination, the product could be activated to form a different shape that optimizes its function.”
H.  Jerry Qi, associate professor of mechanical engineering at CU-Boulder

Read more  4-D Printing Technology for Composite Materials Developed

WOW!  So, consider the effects of this kind of production on the jobs of the future:

  • What kinds of skills would you need in order to be a designer? (4-dimensional visualization skills?)
  • What jobs would be changed or lost (fewer truck drivers needed, because boxes would be smaller?)
  • How would this affect consumers/users?  (What would you make with an in-home 4D printer? How about a tent or table that sets itself up?)
  • What are the effects on the environment – can these things be put in a landfill? Can this be recycled?

And, of course,

  • What implications does this have for education?  How do you assist students to think in 4 dimensions?

We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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