NASA has brought 3D printing to the next level by formulating chainmail-style “4D” printed metal materials to be used in upcoming space missions.
They refer to it as ‘4-D printing’ just because it prints both the design and the functionality of such elements. One side of the modern space material will reflect light, while the other part absorbs it — in so doing letting it work as a thermal management for passive heat control. It may also fold in several ways, and conform to different layouts. Most thrilling of all, however, is that NASA plans to “program” unique abilities into the material.
NASA believes its new wonder material could be utilized for next space suits for astronauts, for large antennas as well as other deployable units, for grabbing items on the surface of other planets, or even for their upcoming spaceship. One interesting use case includes utilizing it to fold over the bumpy surface on something like Jupiter’s frosty moon Europa, to ensure that it could develop “‘feet’ that won’t dissolve the ice” beneath astronauts.