New Publication – Multifunctional Mesostructures: Design and Material Programming for 4D-printing

February 1, 2023 /
360 Grad Fachportal des Bundesinnungsverbandes für Orthopädie-Technik

T. Cheng (ICD), M. Thielen (Uni Freiburg), S. Poppinga (Uni Freiburg), Y. Tahouni (ICD), D. Wood (ICD), Th. Steinberg (Uni Freiburg), A. Menges (ICD), Th. Speck (Uni Freiburg)


A new review article on "Multifunctional Mesostructures: Design and Material Programming for 4D-printing” was published in the 360 Grad Fachportal des Bundesinnungsverbandes für Orthopädie-Technik. 

In the article on the development of bioinspired and self-forming orthoses via 4D-printing, the authors present an approach to material programming for self-forming material systems. The biological model used in the described project was the twining air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera), which adaptively exerts a contact force on its carrier plant by stretching its shoot, which is coiled around the carrier plant, by extending small stipules. This biological method of adaptive force generation was transferred to a first functional prototype using 4D printing.



Natural materials, such as in plant and bone organs, adapt to their surroundings with functionally graded underlying structures. Advances in extrusion-based 4D-printing have enabled the manufacture of bio-inspired systems with varying properties and self-shaping behaviors. However, tailoring the internal composition of such systems relies on specialized knowledge, as most computer-aided design (CAD) applications are based on a modeling paradigm that considers objects as surfaces or solids with no geometrical definition of the interior structure. We propose that engineered materials with differentiated and heterogeneous mesostructures can achieve nature-inspired functionality. We present a design approach for tailoring the internal topology of 4D-printed material systems, using intuitive geometric descriptions from existing CAD workflows. We introduce a material programming framework for assigning and tuning material properties such as elasticity and shape change with varying magnitudes and anisotropies throughout a volume. Our method translates the desired properties into an assembly of functional patterns for fabrication via anisotropic material deposition. To demonstrate this framework, we show several types of material behaviors, including self-shaping double curvature and embedded passive cooling. Finally, we produce a prototype of a wearable assistive device that highlights the integration of multiple functions. Through design and material  programming, the resulting 4D-printed material systems underline how nature-inspired mesostructured material networks can be physically encoded with custom-designed behaviors, shape changes, and functionalities.

More information on the review article here. (in German)
This article is a summary of the following two publications:


To the top of the page