Foresight Institute Logo
Image of nano

Exponential assembly at Zyvex

from the manufacturing-architectures dept.
Some Fat Guy writes "There is an interesting paper and Real Video animations on Exponential Assembly here: The devices described are MEMS devices, but the concept scales down." CP: A more formal journal article from the Foresight Conference is linked to at the end.

4 Responses to “Exponential assembly at Zyvex”

  1. G-Man Says:

    Not real replication

    I'm not sure this is true replication, all it is is assembling premade actuators, using other actuators.the article doesn't state how the actuators are made in the first place.

  2. Enon Says:

    Re:Not real replication

    Presumably the first generation of manipulators would be quite crude, but sufficiently dexterous to assemble better models. The design shown is quite simple and could be made to self- assemble using magnetic fields. It's been done, though not with an actuator on the perpendicular piece yet as far as I know.
    There is a story on it at eetimes which says :

    "The method devised by Liu's team works across the whole chip, with 100 percent yields, by merely applying a linearly increasing magnetic field to the entire substrate after fabrication. The slowly increasing magnetic field causes the 3-D parts to pop up out of the plane of the substrate in the proper order, so that each locks into place before the next pops up. "

    I don't know if that's how Zyvex plans to do it, but it is one way.

  3. pethorne Says:

    Zyvex "Rotopods", exponential rep vs. self rep

    I attended the 8th Foresight Conference (Nov-2000, Bethesda) where Zyvex's George Skidmore and Ralph Merkle spoke, respectively premiering the two "rotopod" animations (#31 "Exponentia l assembly"), and speaking on concepts of replication (#32 "Systems issues in the development of nanotechnology").

    The Zyvex MEMS exponential assembly scheme is entirely mechanical; no magnetics (as in the cited May-2000 article on Chang Liu/UnivIL-Urbana). It took quite a while (Ralph said after the conference) to develop a workable set of mirrored coordinate systems, so the two assembly planes can operate on each other. In the animation, the process is… hypnotic; a ballet of arms grabbing parts, rotating vertically, then horizontally, as the two platforms provide vertical movement.

    The biggest challenge is assembling the first rotopod. They have a meter-scale desktop manipulator, carrying a circuit board, carrying a tiny MEMS gripper (same size/shape as in the unassembled rotopods); the zoom in the animation is vertiginous. A working prototype has been delayed (I learned at the Senior Associates reception) because they need some extra-thick STL, and the one experimentalist with the necessary technique hasn't been too prompt in fulfilling orders.

    Their exponential assembly page is dated 8-Jan-2001; despite the Zyvex contingent's enthusiasm at the conference, it seems they took two months to put the animations up; maybe they didn't want press attention too soon. (The publicity trick is to place the Zyvex logo in every frame. <grin>)

    As to exponential- vs. self-replication… in his talk, Merkle emphasized that many of the fears/objections to nanotech are based on a biological metaphor of "self-replication". Yes, both living cells and the classic VonNeumann replicating architecture have a "manufacturing element" (computer+manipulator) and an instruction tape. But it's easy enough to abstract the instructions and computers into a single (possibly macroscale) device, and *broadcast* control signals to a legion of manipulators. (With severely circumscribed local control, raw materials must be provided in a strict order.)

    With the Zyvex rotopods, the "broadcast" has two components: shared linear motion by the macroscale stages, and rotating-in-unison by the individual assemblers. It's SIMD: single instruction, multiple data (like a parallel computer or square dance). There's no feedback and (at this prototype stage) limited provision for point-failures.

    No, it's not "self"-replication like the devices in _Unbounding the Future_, but the broadcast architecture is entirely adequate for many tasks, and safer too; the manufactured devices can't store replication instructions, and if they did and escaped, "the wild" would lack the carefully-arranged feedstock.

  4. yuvalro Says:


    I am rather new to Nanodot and I have to say I'm very impressed. However, reports from Zyvex bring up – IMHO – the need for a more focused approach, in parallel to the main (news) site theme. By 'more focused' I mean for example a taxonomy of the milestones and the technologies that are needed to create a working assembler, whether a true nanodevice or in MEMS scale – maintaining an up-to-date FAQ for every subcategory in the site might do the trick in this respect. Also, I would very much want to be able to access a list of related (bottom-up nanotechnology) projects and their timelines – progress in Zyvex being an obvious example, the VR project being another.

Leave a Reply