In last month's CRN Science & Technology Essay, Chris Phoenix explained why even the earliest meter-scale nanofactories will necessarily have a high throughput, manufacturing their own mass in just a few hours. He also explained how a nanofactory can fasten together tiny functional blocks — nanoblocks — to make a meter-scale product. The question to be discussed this month is what range of products an early nanofactory would be able to build:
For several reasons, it is important to know the range and functionality of the products that the nanofactory will produce, and how quickly new products can be developed. Knowing these factors will help to estimate the economic value of the nanofactory, as well as its impacts and implications. The larger the projected value, the more likely it is to be built sooner; the more powerful an early nanofactory is and the faster new products appear, the more disruptive it can be.
Because a large nanofactory can be built only by another nanofactory, even the earliest nanofactories will be able to build other nanofactories. This means that the working parts of the nanofactory will be available as components for other product designs. From this reasoning, we can begin to map the lower bound of nanofactory product capabilities.
Read the full essay here.