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« Nukes and Nanotech | Main | Random Tech News Roundup »

December 15, 2006


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Phillip Huggan

$2500 is still too expensive for this Bargainville resident.
This year I got a decent recliner at a nearby garage sale for $15. When I can rep lawn chairs for $5, a desk for $40 and a couch for low 3 figures, I'll by a rep-factory. As it is I still find ink cartridges expensive (printer shops are cheaper?!).

Nato Welch

I had no idea about the patent expiration. Got any sourcing on that?

I look forward to seeing a meso-scale equivalent of Craver's nanoblocks (meso blocks? microblocks?) implemented by the descendants of these projects.

Michael Anissimov

Chris, I think that CRN needs to state clearly the size/energy/complexity/material limits that it wants to impose on product creation for nanofactories. The Military Nanotechnology guy proposed banning all sensors below a certain size, shouldn't you have been all over that years ago? Quantitative and specific statements are very attention-grabbing, and they should be made.

Jamais Cascio

The War on Obesity demands that we ban the use of molecular chocolate goo as a raw material for nanofactories.


"By the time molecular manufacturing arrives, people will be used to the idea of using computers and personal desktop fabs to build cool harmless stuff."

More importantly Chris, there will be a generation of young scientists who will have plenty of hands-on experience with these ideas who won't easily dismiss MNT in the first place. A generation who will help make molecular manufacturing arrive to begin with.

Nato, claytronics might fit the bill for meso-scale nanoblocks, but I think they are more like meso-scale utility foglets.

Also, does anyone know if stereolithography systems or printing services are comming down in price? That has always been the one that caught my eye; just make something on your computer, upload the design, pay the fee and have the finished product mailed to you.


Chris, I saw something in a science fiction book called "Accelerando" that you might be interested it. Excerpts from pages 50 and 55 of the free pdf version:

“The 3D printer is cranking up. It hisses slightly, dissipating heat from the hard vacuum chamber in its supercooled workspace. Deep in its guts it creates coherent atom beams, from a bunch of Bose–Einstein condensates hovering on the edge of absolute zero. By superimposing interference patterns on them, it generates an atomic hologram, building a perfect replica of some original artifact, right down to the atomic level – there are no clunky moving nanotechnology parts to break or overheat or mutate. Something is going to come out of the printer in half an hour, something cloned off its original right down to the individual quantum states of its component atomic nuclei. The cat, seemingly oblivious, shuffles closer to the warm air exhaust ducts.”

“Sleep cycles pass; the borrowed 3D printer on Object Barney’s surface spews bitmaps of atoms in quantum lockstep at its rendering platform, building up the control circuitry and skeletons of new printers (There are no clunky nanoassemblers here, no robots the size of viruses busily sorting molecules into piles – just the bizarre quantized magic of atomic holography, modulated Bose–Einstein condensates collapsing into strange, lacy, supercold machinery.) Electricity surges through the cable loops as they slice through Jupiter’s magnetosphere, slowly converting the rock’s momentum into power. Small robots grovel in the orange dirt, scooping up raw material to feed to the fractionating oven. Amber’s garden of machinery flourishes slowly, unpacking itself according to a schema designed by preteens at an industrial school in Poland, with barely any need for human guidance.”

When I first read this, I thought it was completely made-up. Then I saw something while flipping through the book "Hacking Matter" that is a basic description of the same idea. The idea is to use “atom lasers” derived from Bose-Einstein condensates to make a *real* “atom hologram”, that is to say a solid object. Apparently, there at least two scientist who think something like this will work Lute Maleki of JPL and Pierre Meystre of University of Arizona. Will McCarthy, the author of "Hacking Matter", was doubtful about this, but believes some version of this might be used to build-up nanoelectronics one layer at time.

Brian Wang


The CRN initial proposal looks like the nanoblock proposal to control the feed that goes into the nanofactory.

I think something along the lines of registration, tracking, zoning and monitoring. We do not need nanofactories everywhere and used by everyone. It makes more sense for nanofabrication dispensers that are part of a controlled network with quantum encryption communication.

We currently have registration and tracking of color printers.

The other thing would be to have a libary of vetted safe and fabable products. Just like we now have product safety approvals for toys and consumer products. There would be a libary of approved consumer fabables and then library of fab approved for industrial.

Then we work at making the process as speedy and efficient as possible. Certain designs that meet a restrictive set of rules that guarantee a benign result could be automatically approved.

Brian Wang

We have a structure of institutions and approval processes for equipment and products. It makes sense that we can extend those institutions and procedures. Anything to be built by a nanofactory should have gone through consumer product safety.


Occupational health and safety

Industrial regulations

Property zoning and permitted activity at a residential area

By extending the existing processes we can cover a lot of how to deal with nanofactories without simple bans where we do not investigate the details of how to make it work.

Nato Welch

I think it's important to note that consumer protection authorities only protect consumers - those who BUY stuff from vendors. Tinkerers who build stuff in their garage are exempt, largely because they don't make things to sell - and when they do, they must submit to regulation.

This practice extends to software, as well. You'll find a disclaimer for all damages and liability in every major software license, regardless of whether it's proprietary or FOSS.

The promise I see in nanofactories, and with all forms of automated fabrication, is that it puts the creative power of manufacturing into more democratic, non-commercial collaborative hands as it becomes more affordable. I'm afraid that if we put too much power into the hands of a signing authority, we'll lose this benefit. Open source collaborations will overwhelm it trying to get bugfixes signed; the agency will either have to grow to cope with demand, costing more money, or the nascent open source fab geeks will be strangled in the crib.

Perhaps the terrorists we disarm with such a strategy will be worth it. I'm not sure.

Brian Wang

I think it would be a simple and prudent modification to have consumer protection extend to what the nanofactory makes. In terms of making the system less bottlenecked, we can use various social networking type systems to make it more efficient. Safety and efficiency would have to be dynamically balanced. Dynamic balance meaning that we all would see how well creativity is allowed to work and balancing restrictions and safety problems as things happen. We cannot figure out now years or decades in advance what the right level is, but we have some historical processes which mostly work alright now. If one place is too restrictive then it will effect productivity relative to more permissive states and countries. If areas are too permissive there will be safety problems. I think the terrorism problem would be smaller than kids making something and hurting themselves or others.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Michael A, the military nano guy (Juergen Altmann) is talking about MEMS (note: a lot bigger than molecular manufacturing) made in a few facilities and sold. It makes some sense to talk about size restrictions in that problem domain. I'm not at all sure what problem domain MM-built weapons will be in, much less how to regulate it, much less what numbers to publish in recommendations for regulation.



So if they could make this system much more advance it sounds alot more practical than mm, I doubt anyone would need or care that their ipod is made from injected molding or put together molecule by molecule which is definately more complicated. I don't see the importance of mm when there could be a machinery like this doing the same thing and a prototype already out right now.

Not to mention alot more safer when nano particles or the possibility of making nano weapons is much less, giving billions of people the ability to make nano sized products(weapons) or make ferraris is greedy and extremely dangerous. Average person needs to only build basic products to survive and to enjoy life as a normal human, not jeapordize humanity because everyone should be able to have a ferrari and a mansion. If your arguement is that everyone should have every basic living material, then this machine makes alot of sense, because you can build everything from clothing to needless luxury products like ipods and xbox360s.

I've heard alot here that corporations are greedy, okay maybe so, but putting the world in jeapordy for cool cars and awesome mansions is ten times more greedy. As it is humans are way too greedy right now, humans as a whole are very greedy in general, people fight for only thier own survival, therefore nothing would or could stop billions of mini corporations than a few thousand big corporations with alot more oversight. I don't trust average humans to make decisions on thier leaders(george bush,hitler,khomeini), I don't trust humans who 25 percent think that the sun revolves around the earth and 54 percent still think that Iraq had wmds or majority know who homer simpson is than thier own president, now you're telling me don't worry a machine that can build weapons 50 times stronger than todays weapons in these peoples homes is perfectly safe. In another forum I was reading this person was saying how much he supports mm, and then he said the first thing he would do is wipe off half the worlds population for the good of superior civilians, so imagine if this guy had his own mm.


Kadamose? That guy was a bit out there! I read that guy's stuff when I was lurking at Nanodot years ago.

Chris Phoenix

DT, I'm not saying MM is *good* because it'll give everyone Ferraris. There are things that MM can probably do a lot more effectively than any other technology. Planet-scale engineering, for example--which we may need pretty soon.

There are other things MM can do more efficiently, and some of those things will surely lead to luxuries. I don't think luxuries are inherently bad. And in other countries that don't have an established industry or a thriving economy, MM may allow them to climb out of grinding poverty.

MM will also lead to dangers. Well, there are dangers today. It's not like CRN hasn't been warning about them! In fact, we've spent years exploring ways to keep the most dangerous technology out of the hands of most people, without creating a black market that'll make things worse.

The leaders you don't trust will certainly have MM. Given that, would you rather the people have MM, or not? (That's a serious question, and I'm curious which way you'll answer.)



Many nations still don't have nuclear weapons because they're heavily regulated, they're fairly easy to make for a nation, however governments are still much more easier to control than billions of unknown people, thats why we can bomb Saddam out of power in a week but we can't win a war against 10 thousand unknown Iraqi farmers with all our military might combined for years. I do not trust people to have extremely powerful machines at thier disposal, if MM does what its suppose to do then I give humanity a week before 10 million wackos destroy the world because the voices in thier heads told them or god spoke to them, or some grandma accidently made powerful explosives when she was trying to make computer, or a teen who was trying to build a rpg-7 for fun, not one but millions around the globe doing the same thing.

There would have to be alot of regulations and oversight for me to even see such a possibility that each and every person on this planet should have a home based machine that can build whatever they want and I still won't believe that such a machine wouldn't have many issues just like how computers and softwares to this day have immense amount of issues and many hackers have been able to hack and terrorize very secure systems, but that doesn't hold a candle to what could happen with MM.

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