Monday, August 2, 2010

Nanotechnology and Additive Technologies at IMTS Emerging Technology Center

This is a brief article I wrote last Thursday for the  IMTS Insider article.

The Emerging Technology Center will have four extremely interesting sections:
  • MTConnect
  • Cloud Computing
  • Nanotechnology
  • Additive Technologies
In previous IMTS Insider articles, I have discussed both MTConnect and Cloud Computing. In this edition, I am going to touch on nanotechnology and additive technologies.

In 2000, while I was at Sun Microsystems, I had the privilege of putting together a conference on future technologies. One of the speakers was Dr. Eric Drexler. Dr. Drexeler is viewed as one of the fathers of nanotechnology. He wrote the book, “Engines of Creation - The Coming Era of Nanotechnology”. His talk was absolutely fascinating and was one of the key hits of the conference. Dr. Drexler also wrote the book "Nanosystems Molecular Machinery Manufacturing and Computation" in 1992 which received the Association of American Publishers award for Best Computer Science Book that year. He is credited with coining the term term grey goo. Nanotechnology is about controlling matter at the atomic and molecular level. While we often think of nanotechnology as science fiction, there are numerous examples of important work going on in this field. At the ETC, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) are putting together the nanotechnology section that will be a “can't miss” part of IMTS 2010. While we will not be handing out grey goo and self-replicating nanobots, we will be discussing and demonstrating the technical and business side of nanotechnology.

At IMTS 2006, I was completely floored at the Ex One exhibit when I was shown additive technologies for the first time by Ex One's CEO and Founder Larry Rhoades.   Mr. Rhoades completely blew me away showing me an MC Escher 3D printing. He pointed out to me that only through printing a layer at a time was this even possible. It would have been absolutely impossible to create the 3D MC Escher ascending and descending stairs with a machine tool. Additive technology has the huge advantage of zero waste. As the cost of additive technology continues to drop, we will see this technology used in more and more applications. Tragically, Mr. Rhoades died in 2007. The industry lost a true thought leader. SME will be demonstrating and discussing additive technologies at the ETC. It is very important to understand where the state of the art is today with additive technologies so you and your company are not caught flat footed.

Nanotechnology and additive technologies are no longer bleeding edge technologies, but leading edge. Leading edge technologies are extremely important to follow because when the tipping point occurs, the adoption will be rapid. This will be the best ETC in the history of IMTS – don't miss it!