The MIT Self-Assembly Lab is Pioneering the Brave New World of “4D Printing”

MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab defines “self-assembly” as “ a process by which disordered parts build an ordered structure through local interaction.” In other words, the cross-disciplinary MIT team works to build materials and components that can then autonomously build themselves into larger structures. They have developed woods, polymers, balloons, magnets, and other materials that self-assemble in a variety of ways. Some are activated as they are submerged in water. Others are tumbled in cages like lottery balls until they find the right connection with other pieces. The Lab’s researchers believe that these prototype techniques could one day lead to major breakthroughs in a whole range of applied fields. For the Chicago Architecture Biennial this fall, members will be collaborating with the Gramazio Kohler research unit at ETH Zürich to debut a new method of self-assembly.