What is Nanotechnology? What does it mean for me?

Nanotechnology is yet another buzzworthy topic for 2015nanotechnology_image

Relative to manufacturing, this multidisciplinary branch of science looks at engineering from a molecular or atomic level—more specifically on a nanoscale: one nanometer is equivalent to one billionth of a meter. An atom is even smaller yet … it’s about one tenth of a nanometer. In an essence, it takes extremely small bits of matter to engineer a part or end-product.

Global Industry Analysts predict the nanotechnology market will exceed $30 billion in 2015. And according to Nanotechnology Market Outlook 2020, it is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 16.5 percent between now and 2020.

How does nanotechnology apply to manufacturing? And more importantly, why?

Nanomanufacturing can help improve manufacturers’ products and processes. It can cut down on waste, improve efficiency, enhance durability and even create products that are not only stronger but also smaller and lighter-weight. Here’s how:

Less waste:

  • Bottom up manufacturing (at the nanoscale) versus the top down, there is less waste. Think of carving a sculpture out of a block of wood.
  • Top down manufacturing produces a lot of wasted material (shavings, sawdust, etc.). When you build something from the bottom up, perhaps through methods such as additive manufacturing, there is little to no waste.

Improved efficiency:

  • Using nanotechnology, we can create finished products that require no machining, fabrication or assembly.
  • Due to the bottom up approach of nanomanufacturing which cuts down on production time, lowers the cost of materials and labor and decreases the risk of rework.
  • In addition, programming machine setups becomes unnecessary, parts can’t be fabricated incorrectly and an assembly line is no longer required.

Better products:

  • According to the National Nanotechnology Initiative, more than 800 everyday products exist that are produced with nanoscale materials or processes.
  • Nanoscale additives are being added to sporting goods, automobile bumpers, motorcycle helmets and more to make them lightweight, durable and resilient.
  • Nanostructured coatings are being applied to machine parts to increase strength and wear-resistance.
  • And nano-engineered materials are being used to make automotive parts such as battery systems, electronics and sensors cleaner, cheaper and more efficient.
Who knows where nanotechnology will take us? Do you see it playing a role in improving your products or processes?
We’d love to hear about it.

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