Four-dimensional (4D) printing is a new category of printing that expands the fabrication process to include time as the fourth dimension, and its simulation and planning need to take time into consideration as well. The common tool for estimating the behavior of a deformable object is the finite element method (FEM). However, there are various sources of deformation in 4D printing, e.g., hardware and material settings. To model the behavior by FEM, a complete understanding of the process is needed and a mathematical model should be established for the structure–property–process relationship. However, the relationship is usually complicated, which requires different kinds of testing to formulate such models due to the process complexity. With the insight that the characteristic of shape change is the primary focus in 4D printing, this paper introduces geometry-driven finite element (GDFE) to simplify the modeling process by inducing deformation behavior from a few physical experiments. The principle of GDFE is based on the relationship between material structure and shape transformation. Accordingly, a deformation simulation can be developed for 4D printing by applying the principles to the GDFEs. The GDFE framework provides an intuitive and effective way to enable simulation and planning for 4D printing even when a complete mathematical model of new material is not available yet. The use of the GDFE framework for some applications is also presented in this paper.

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