A New Dimension: 4D Printing Opportunities in Pharmaceutics

  • Jack FirthEmail author
  • Simon Gaisford
  • Abdul W. Basit
Part of the AAPS Advances in the Pharmaceutical Sciences Series book series (AAPS, volume 31)


4D printing is a novel concept which adopts time as the fourth-dimension, allowing printed structures to independently alter their morphology. Using ‘smart materials’ as a feedstock, these products respond to stimuli such as light, temperature, water or pH, contorting in a specific manner to create structures able to adapt and respond to their environment. Such is the novelty of the technology, 4D printing is yet to be utilised in the field of pharmaceutical formulation. Nevertheless, smart materials have already been adopted in the industry, creating bioadhesive devices that respond to pH for specific targeting of areas of the GI tract, or even remotely-controlled ‘micro-robots’ designed to deliver chemo-therapeutics directly to the site of the tumour. Consequently, previous innovation with smart materials will likely act as precursors to the inevitable adoption of 4D printing in the industry. This will pave way to the creation of therapeutics that combine the personalisation afforded by additive manufacturing with the intelligent kinetics of the smart materials.


Four-dimensional printing Three-dimensional printing Bioprinting Medical devices Personalized medicines Drug delivery systems 


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Copyright information

© American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Firth
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Simon Gaisford
    • 1
    • 3
  • Abdul W. Basit
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PharmaceuticsUCL School of Pharmacy, University College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Intract Pharma Ltd.LondonUK
  3. 3.FabRx Ltd.Ashford, KentUK

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