design | November 24, 2016

The Next Revolution in Design? It’s 4D Printing—and Skylar Tibbits’s New Self-Assembly Lab Is the Perfect Guidebook.

Skylar Tibbits is leading the next design revolution. In his Self-Assembly Lab at MIT, he’s on the cutting edge of what he calls 4D printing (think: objects that adapt to their surroundings like living things—and create endless possibilities for construction, manufacturing, and infrastructure in the process). It’s all in his new book, Self-Assembly Lab: Experiments in Programming Matter.

Imagine shoes that mold to fit your feet. Clothing that changes thickness based on the weather. Coffee cups that respond to the heat of their contents. All this could exist, with the help of 4D printing and smart materials.


And that’s what TED Fellow Skylar Tibbits is pioneering. An architect, designer, computer scientist, and artist, he fuses many disciplines in his work, which imagines physical structures imbued with the qualities of living organisms. Take water pipes, for example. Our current models have a fixed capacities and flow rates. Any significant change—environmental, economic, or otherwise—and they get replaced. But if our pipes could adapt to these changes by themselves, we’d save uncounted amounts of labor, money, and other resources. In short, we could reinvent the very concept of infrastructure. 

Fellows in the Field: Skylar Tibbits


Self-assembly processes are scale-independent and work with a wide variety of materials and machines. And according to Tibbits’s lab, they open up doors for breakthroughs in nearly every industry: “biology, material science, software, robotics, manufacturing, transportation, infrastructure, construction, the arts, and even space exploration.” 


Sound fascinating? Here’s the full description for Self-Assembly Lab


What if structures could build themselves or adapt to fluctuating environments? Skylar Tibbits, Director of the Self-Assembly Lab in the Department of Architecture at MIT, Cambridge, MA, crosses the boundaries between architecture, biology, materials science and the arts, to envision a world where material components can self-assemble to provide adapting structures and optimized fabrication solutions. The book examines the three main ingredients for self-assembly, includes interviews with practitioners involved in the work and presents research projects related to these topics to provide a complete first look at exciting future technologies in construction and self-transforming material products.


To hire the MIT Self-Assembly Lab’s Skylar Tibbits to speak at your company’s next event or conference, contact The Lavin Agency speakers bureau, his exclusive representative for keynote appearances.