Material programming for 4D-printing: Architected mesostructures for bio-inspired self-shaping

2017-Current | Doctoral Research
Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg

Tiffany Cheng

Material programming for 4D-printing: Architected mesostructures for bio-inspired self-shaping

A framework for the integrative computational design and additive fabrication of responsive material systems

Can engineered systems --- like living organisms --- passively adapt to their surroundings, becoming more in tune with the fluctuating environment?

Natural systems often adapt to external stimuli by changing shapes. However, to produce changes in shape with conventional engineering, systems are typically subdivided into standardized materials selected for their homogenous properties or discrete functions in actuation, sensing, and control. Consequently, complex manufacturing processes are required to fabricate and assemble a kinematic system composed of several technical components. The advent of additive manufacturing presents the opportunity to fabricate integrated material systems from the inside-out, enabling desired properties and behavior to be encoded in the material --- like in nature. Still, the practical deployment of material systems with embedded multifunctionality is constrained by a lack of established design methods for 4D-printing.

This thesis aims to develop a material programming framework for the 4D-printing of adaptive architected materials. The scope of this research consists of a series of case studies: (1) the formulation of computational design methods for fabricating mesostructures with tunable material properties and functionalities, (2) the transfer of functional principles from a biological role model to a functionally heterogeneous 4D-printed wearable device, and finally (3) the demonstration of this approach at an architectural scale in the production a self-shaping prototypical structure. By modulating the mesoscale substructure of a macroscale object via extrusion-based additive fabrication, a functional gradation of stiffness, porosity, and actuation can be achieved across scales and disciplines.

Hybrid Additive Fabrication

Source: Vimeo
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ICD Institute for Computational Design and Construction - Prof. Achim Menges

Scientific Development

Tiffany Cheng


Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg


Cheng, T., Tahouni, Y., Wood, D., Stolz, B., Mulhaupt, R., Menges, A.: 2020, Multifunctional Mesostructures: Design and Material Programming for 4D-printing. In Symposium on Computational Fabrication (SCF '20). ACM, New York, NY, USA. (DOI: 10.1145/3424630.3425418)

Cheng, T., Thielen, M., Poppinga, S., Tahouni, Y., Wood, D., Steinberg, T., Menges, A., Speck, T.: 2021, Bio‐Inspired Motion Mechanisms: Computational Design and Material Programming of Self‐Adjusting 4D‐Printed Wearable Systems. Advanced Science, 2100411. (DOI: 10.1002/advs.202100411)

Cheng, T., Wood, D., Wang, X., Yuan, P., Menges, A.: 2020, Programming Material Intelligence: An Additive Fabrication Strategy for Self-Shaping Biohybrid Components. Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence: Biomimetic and Biohybrid Systems [Proceedings of the Living Machines 2020 Conference], vol. 12413, pp. 36--45. (DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-64313-3_5)

Cheng, T., Wood, D., Kiesewetter, L., Özdemir, E., Antorveza, K., Menges, A.: 2021, Programming material compliance and actuation: hybrid additive fabrication of biocomposite structures for large-scale self-shaping. Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. (DOI: 10.1088/1748-3190/ac10af)

Contact information

This image shows Tiffany Cheng

Tiffany Cheng

M.DesS, B.Arch

Research Associate

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