One of the cover stories in Machine Design is by Mark Sims, CEO of Nanorex, on nanotech molecular modeling in CAD (computer-aided design). For those of us who have already been tracking the field, the most exciting part is at the end:
The software does not currently output data that could drive such machines as, for instance, conventional CAD/CAM software outputs data to drive CNCs [computer numerical control machines]. However, we are developing a feature of the program that will do this for specific types of structures. For example, we are working with a research group at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif, that has come up with a technique for synthesizing arbitrary 2D shapes out of DNA. A Fall release of NanoEngineer-1 will let engineers design and model custom DNA shapes that can actually be synthesized. NanoEngineer-1 will create a special file format that users can send to a company to order the individual strands of DNA needed to create the final structure. Once received, the materials are then combined for a reaction that creates a custom DNA structure.
One more step on the long pathway to building molecular machines in your garage, with all that implies. —Christine