Molecular manufacturing will require R&D in many areas. Progress in these areas will happen at different speeds. MM will not have a big impact until a number of capabilities come together.
Hervé Musseau asks whether progress toward MM will happen exponentially, like the Human Genome Project, or according to the 80/20 rule where the last 20% is hard.
It definitely won't be exponential, overall; too many technologies have to come together, and each will develop at its own rate. But the flip side of that is that, once the last gating technology is developed, years of delay will be followed by rapid integration.
At least, I think the integration will be rapid, and this series of posts is written to explore the reasons why it will be.
One thing that could slow down MM is if there's a gating technology that no one identifies until they start trying to integrate. But that is looking less and less likely, for the simple reason that MM is still widely thought to be many decades away. I expect that the final push to integrate capabilities and develop a world-changing manufacturing capability will not get underway until it's blindingly obvious that it will work.
Even if someone started trying to build a diamondoid nanofactory today, we would see almost no progress for a while - and then almost overnight they'd go from a few machines that almost worked, to a fully functional nanofactory.
I don't think this fits either exponential metrics or the 80/20 rule. I don't think standard measures of technological progress will work here, since ultimately the impact of a nanofactory is less about its technology than about its products and their earth-shaking implications.