Danny Taggart's Blogarama

A more-or-less daily dose of news, politics, techmology, and any random thoughts that pass through my head.

Friday, December 03, 2004

The future of manufacturing

I was reading a nanotech article on TechCentralStation and started thinking about the future of manufacturing. I can see three potential futures. The real one may be some sort of synthesis, or the application of each in different domains, or the overall dominance of one over the others.

1. Assembly - this is the current manufacturing method, which has been used for centuries. It is a reductionist method: break up the system you want to build into component parts. Build those first, then put them together.

2. Digital printing - like the 3D printers today, except many times larger, faster, higher resolution, and using a wide variety of materials.

3. Self-organizing nanobots - simple little machines that do one task repetitively. Put a bunch of these suckers together (say, millions) and you've got yourself a ginormous workforce. The problem with this method is providing these drones with the intelligence to work in a context larger than their local environment. For example, a bot may know to join two molecules together, but it has no idea it's building a car.