Chris Phoenix writes:
Molecular fabrication can build only small things. To make a large product, the small pieces must be fastened together. Last year, as part of my nanofactory plans, I described a mechanical joint that might do the job. The surfaces would be covered with interlocking channels. The parts would only have to be placed together, and they'd stick -- like snap-fit assembly, but much stronger. The bond could be made permanent or reversible.
Now comes an announcement of an invention called Vaccro, to be used for assembly and reconfiguration of modular spacecraft.
Created by VACCO Industries, Vaccro is analogous to 'metal Velcro' in that two surfaces will mechanically adhere to each other upon contact. Depending on the type of Vaccro used, these bonds can be either permanent or reversible.
Let's hear more about what Vaccro is good for...
The potential of Vaccro technology to NASA, and indeed any significant space mission, is the prospect that it offers for modular construction of space systems either autonomously (when coupled with other technologies) or via robotic and/or EVA methods. The proposed technology would enable the incremental build-up of complex space systems .... An ability to connect modules without cables, bolts, or tethers, but simply through an accurate docking process, could extend the reach of man to places that are simply unreachable or unaffordable today.
Yep -- unreachable places like the interior of nanofactories. This is exactly what's required for the post-fabrication assembly phase of nanofactory operation: putting pieces together reliably, with simple robotics, without any need for human intervention. It looks like the technology required for simple convergent assembly has now been demonstrated at the micro-scale.