Kenyans are yet to fully lay hands on 3D printers, that’s according to Google Search Results for the search term “3D Printing in Kenya”. Try “3D Printing in Nigeria” or “3D Printing in South Africa” and you’ll see what I mean. There are two interesting search results for “3D Printing in Kenya”. The first is a Facebook Page called 3d printing kenya, a Facebook Page intended to “keep Kenyan’s up to date with the latest 3D Printing news, trends, innovations and many more“. The Page had 314 likes by the time of writing this article. It has a lot of news about what’s happening in the 3D printing business elsewhere in the world, but no news on 3D Printing in Kenya.
The second interesting result is a Business Daily article on 3D Printing published in July 2013. The article highlights the impacts 3D printing has in the manufacturing sector as explained by some early adopters like James Kinongu, a pipe joint manufacturer. One of the consequences of 3D Printing, Mr. Kinongu said, is making tools and industrial parts available, parts that were initially impossible to get locally. 3D printing, he said, had made his pipe manufacturing a booming business. The article also provide us with information that a few institutions of higher learning such as University of Nairobi, Mombasa Polytechnic University College and Nyeri Technical College were some of the early adopters of entry level 3D printers in Kenya.
4D Printing Arrives
Even before Kenyans can properly lay hands on 3D printers, 4D Printers have arrived. In October 2013, the US Military gave “$385,000 to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the University of Illinois to research on 4D printing”. It so happens that down south Australia there was a team of researchers that was also busy researching on 4D printing, and the researchers have managed to make a working 4D Printer.
What is 4D Printing?
As we explained in the article on US Military funding 4D Printing research, a 4D Printer is a 3D Printer that can print products capable of adjusting according to the environmental changes with time (like space-time continuum, you can see there is a time dimension in 4D Printing too). “The 4D printing means that objects printed will be able to change shape, form, and/or colour with time according to the environment, circumstances or/and as per user needs.” “4D printed objects will be able to change its colour and patterning, or alter its structure to adapt to changing environmental conditions”, we wrote.
Thus, when you read news that a team of Australian researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) at the University of Wollongong (UOW) have created a smart valve using hydrogel ink alongside other statistic material that can change shape according to water temperature, you know that they have created a 4D Printer.
“The Australian team chose tough hydrogels that change their properties when exposed to heat and moisture, and used them to 3D-print a smart valve that can control water flow. Cold water flows through normally, but it closes when hot water is detected”, reported TechRadar.
“The cool thing about it is that it’s a working, functioning device that you just pick up from the printer,” said Marc in het Panhuis, a member of the research team. “There’s no other assembly required. It’s an autonomous valve, there’s no input necessary other than water.”