4D Spork

A fork has two states. So too does a spoon. but a spork? a spork has three. What does this mean?

Source: The Morphing Matter Lab @ Carnegie Mellon University

Source: The Morphing Matter Lab @ Carnegie Mellon University

Consider sporks are not good spoons, and are even worse forks. Just like a flying car is not a good car and not a good plane. Previous attempts to redefine the spork focus on optimizing the geometry of a fork-spoon union, but what if instead we tried to optimize the spork in a different way.

I think a spoon and fork each has two states: in use and at rest. A spork has three: in use as a spoon, in use as a fork, and at rest. I think the ideal solution should focus in the transition between rest to fork use, and rest to spoon use. As a spork doesn’t usually have to at once be both a spoon and fork, it just has to be either.

A solution is to adapt 4D printing practices to the utensil space. 4D printing is a way of varying parameters during 3D printing so the final print is flat, but when surrounded by a heated environment, the object can gain permanent 3D geometry. The image at the top illustrates some flat geometry, and their heated final 3d shapes.

very simple graphic of the future of sporks

very simple graphic of the future of sporks

Now imagine a flat utensil resembling a fork, but with a rounded body. Like the silhouette of a spoon with the tines of a fork

When used in most fork applications, the object would remain in its original shape, able to function well in a fork-like way!

But, when the utensil has to serve in the form of a spoon, it gains concavity. This could happen in one of two ways; if the food to be eaten is a warm liquid like soup, the flat utensil could be submerged in the liquid, and the concavity of a spoon would quickly appear. If the food to be eaten isn’t a liquid or is not hot, the user could place the flat form spork in their mouth for short duration, activating the concave geometry.

All that said, creating a sturdy flat-pack 4D printed spork with low activation temperatures and is food safe is way more complex and less defined than a traditional injection molded spork, but I think a morphing spork is way more interesting :)