Glad to see another fellow refugee from the Reagan star wars era. I was at
Lockheed working on the star wars optical experiment program, the precursor
to the overall star wars initiative.
In this discussion of Nanotechnology one may want to explore the Cornell
University Nanotechnology Center Web Site. Although not really related to
RP, the Cornell researchers managed to assemble the first molecular computer
in the early 90s by using atomic force forceps to assemble a simple switch.
The concept of RP as we know it today is not viable for what we perceive to
be the Fabricators and matrializers we dream about. Molecular manipulation
will require very large computing power in order to keep track of the many
"parts" and to assemble them according to a blueprint of some kind. The
Carbon nanotubes are a significant advancement because they can act like
transistors which boosts the electrical signals in the computing circuitry.
Lithography is capable of nanometer distances between etched circuitry.
Indeed there are XY tables that are capable of nanometer stepping. The
limiting factor is that eventually the interference crosstalk between
circuitry etched on a chip cannot be overcome by the advancements insulation
materials. Hence, the so-called post silicon era is starting because of the
physical limitations of today's technology. RP will see benefits from the
computing power, but there must also be materials development to take
advantage. For RP to advance, more development of materials to increase the
types objects that can be designed and printed. Multi-material simultaneous
deposition will enable complex active objects, for instance, a watch complete
with a battery printed and delivered via the Internet onto a home 3D Printer.
Can this be done in our life time? Yes, the technology is available now.
It is possible to print batteries and circuitry and enclose the batteries and
circuitry in an encasement. Of course there would need to be some software
development to would work with such a multi-material system. The size of the
file that this fabrication might require can be handled by today's PCs.
For more information about the rp-ml, see http://rapid.lpt.fi/rp-ml/
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