Carnegie Mellon University is building micro-bots with an eye toward nano-bots. According to the article, the CMU lab has a diverse set of equipment for fabricating and studying microscale structures. They are currently working on swimming and water-walking robots, with bacterial motors attached. The robots are micro, but the motors are nano -- an interesting hybrid.
The Nanodot story reports that professor Metin Sitti, who's working in the lab, said in 2004 that nanoassembly, nanomanufacturing, and hybrid robots would be 5-10 years out, and atomic and molecular scale manufacturing would arrive after 10 years. Sitti, by the way, is Chair of the IEEE Nanotechnology Council’s Technical Committee on Nanorobotics and Nanomanufacturing.
Keep in mind that nanomanufacturing and molecular manufacturing are more different than they sound. Nanomanufacturing is the National Nanotechnology Initiative's term for improved manufacture of nano-stuff -- whether atomically precise or not, and whether with the help of active nanomachines, passive template nanostructures, or something even more mundane -- basically, just one step beyond today's capabilities. Molecular manufacturing has a much tighter focus: using precise nanoscale mechanical systems to build more precise nanoscale mechanical systems.
Although molecular manufacturing has a specific and long-established meaning, similar-sounding terms can refer to much more primitive capabilities. So when Dr. Sitti said that the transition from nanomanufacturing to molecular scale manufacturing may happen around 2014, it's not clear from the Foresight report whether he meant full molecular manufacturing, but it seems safe to assume he was thinking in that direction. And of course, one of the most important points about molecular manufacturing is that once a certain level of technology is achieved, the rest can happen quickly. Sitti's projections seem consistent with CRN's timeline estimates -- which have frequently been criticized as being too aggressive. We'll see, soon enough.