Micromanufacturing and Its Relevance
Peter Bishop, Ph.D.*
This is an abstract
for a poster to be presented at the
Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology.
There will be a link from here to the full article when it is
available on the web.
The current state of the field of micromanufacturing is
reviewed. Several exciting things are happening in this field.
Within the United States, Louisiana Tech. has created a
significant center for research in micromanufacturing. Meanwhile,
German and Japanese manufacturing, which have always been moving
in the direction of microminiaturization, have achieved some
interesting results in the areas of milling and drilling of parts
at the sub-millimeter scale. The smallest twist drill currently
stands at about 50 microns in diameter. Some of the ion beam
machining techniques are capable of creating tools for
micromachining. This field has already discovered some
interesting limitations on tools made of diamond that will be
The relevance of micromanufacturing to nanotechnology has
always been a significant question to workers in nanotechnology.
On the one hand, Eric Drexler has been encouraging everyone to
think in terms of mechanical engineering principles operating at
the nanometer scale to achieve chemical results that bulk
chemical reactions are incapable of. On the other hand, the
ability of the traditional manufacturing industry to leap across
such vast differences in scale from what they are used to has
been a significant question for nanotechnology workers. The
elements of this thinking will be presented from the perspectives
of nanotechnology and semiconductor manufacturing. Now that Ralph
Merkle has described a nanotechnology manufacturing plant that
contains flexible manufacturing cells of numerous different
sizes, however, it is possible that even if traditional
manufacturing cannot really work at the nanometer level, that it
will still have an important role to play even if it can only
produce flexible manufacturing cells that are, at minimum size,
one millimeter across.
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