Someone asked me in email about the difference between nanopowders and molecular manufacturing. My response seems suitable for a blog post:
For a very brief overview of molecular manufacturing, see http://crnano.org/whatis.htm.
Nanopowders are small, relatively simple structures made by relatively large machines. Molecular manufacturing uses small machines (in fact, nanoscale machines) under computer control to make intricate products via molecular additive techniques. The range of products includes small machines, and it turns out that you can scale up production fairly quickly, due to scaling law advantages of small machines.
Computer-controlled additive manufacturing at the level of molecular bonds implies general-purpose manufacturing: a single manufacturing system could build a wide range of products depending on what blueprints were fed in. Complete products, that is; not merely shapes like today's rapid prototyping systems. And, again thanks to scaling laws and a few physics tricks, the products would have orders of magnitude higher performance than today's versions.
Molecular manufacturing is, so far, in the early stages of research; as an industrial process, it doesn't exist yet. But when it's developed, watch out! I expect it to do for manufacturing what computers did for data processing. We used to have rooms full of people doing arithmetic and even writing by hand. In the future, we will "used to have" factories full of people and special-purpose machines making individual components and then assembling them into products.
The implications of molecular manufacturing go beyond the economic impacts. One implication is rapid R&D of highly advanced aerospace technology, including weapons--it looks to me like this could be a major factor in geopolitics. It is implications like this that are CRN's reason for existence.