4D printing of wooden actuators: encoding FDM wooden filaments for architectural responsive skins

Rana El-Dabaa*, Islam Salem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Conventional motion mechanisms in adaptive skins require rigid kinematic mechanical systems that require sensors and actuation devices, hence impeding the adoption of zero-energy buildings. This paper aims to exploit wooden responsive actuators as a passive approach for adaptive facades with dynamic shading configurations. Wooden passive actuators are introduced as a passive responsive mechanism with zero-energy consumption.

Design/methodology/approach: The study encodes the embedded hygroscopic parameters of wood through 4D printing of wooden composites as a responsive wooden actuator. Several physical experiments focus on controlling the printed hygroscopic parameters based on the effect of 3D printing grain patterns and infill height on the wooden angle of curvature when exposed to variation in humidity. The printed hygroscopic parameters are applied on two types of wooden actuators with difference in the saturation percentage of wood in the wooden filaments specifically 20% and 40% for more control on the angle of curvature and response behavior.

Findings: The study presents the ability to print wooden grain patterns that result in single and double curved surfaces. Also, printing actuators with variation in infill height control each part of wooden actuator to response separately in a controlled passive behavior. The results show a passive programmed self-actuated mechanism that can enhance responsive façade design with zero-energy consumption through utilizing both material science and additive manufacturing mechanisms.

Originality/value: The study presents a set of controlled printed hygroscopic parameters that stretch the limits in controlling the response of printed wood to humidity instead of the typical natural properties of wood.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-390
Number of pages15
JournalOpen House International
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2021


  • 4D wood printing
  • Adaptive facades
  • Fused deposition modeling (FDM)
  • Hygroscopic properties of wood
  • Passive actuation
  • Programmable materials

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Urban Studies


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