Nanotechnology: A new way to manufacture

There are several different advances being made in manufacturing as a whole that are being aided by enterprise resource planning software, such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015. The one grabbing much of the headlines is additive manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing. While this method of production is gaining a lot of traction, there are other approaches that are increasing in popularity, especially in the field of metals and plastics discrete production. One of them, nanomanufacturing, has the potential of greatly altering how goods are produced at a smaller-than-microscopic level, and the use of unique materials can play a role in how they develop.

Keeping things on the small side
Nanomanufacturing involves the development of materials at a incredibly small scale. Often, processes are being worked on a scale of nanometers, not millimeters or micrometers. A single nanometer equals one-billionth of a meter and translates to about 1/80,000th the diameter of a human hair, according to tech firm PTC. At that point, companies are close to manipulating atoms in a molecule.

There are two known forms of nanomanufacturing currently in place, according to the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The first is the top-down approach, which reduces most of the materials found for a specific object are removed, extracting only the most basic structures. It can be akin to making a sculpture or drilling for oil. The second method is bottom-up, in which tools are used to construct materials at the atomic level. While the latter method is time-consuming, it also presents the greatest potential for manufacturers by creating very specific materials for use in any given product. The former, on the other hand, allows materials to be extracted from common goods, which may have more use for manufacturers for the time being. There are various different approaches from which these two methods come into play that involve creating films in certain ways. That includes using chemical vapors, lithography, molecular beams and self-assembly.

Making unique materials
For manufacturers, the potential for nanomanufacturing comes from the materials themselves. By being able to adjust the atomic structure of any given material, shops have a greater amount of control over the parts they build, especially polymers and metals. Sometimes the material needs to last longer. In other situations, it needs to have a texture that is smooth and mirror-like with while being resistant to the oils of the human skin. In some cases, it just needs to withstand a lot of pressure or force. There may even be situation where all these properties are necessary. If a shop were able to make these ideal features possible through some basic manipulation on the location and structure of atoms, then it means that it can create more effective and longer-lasting parts. That can help improve its standing among customers, creating stronger relationships and developing a consistent stream of revenue.

In 2015, the first major uses of nanotechnology in manufacturing are expected to bear fruit. It may take time before the ideal situation develops in which smaller shops are able to make their own materials. However, the current results are enough to attract interest to most manufacturers.

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