The word nano comes from the Greek nanos, meaning dwarf but in this case, we’re talking extremely small. While minuscule might be what most of us think about when we hear about nanotechnologies what’s exciting in this case is that size really does matter. At nano sizes, matter behaves differently than it does at larger sizes. Such a distinction means the display of unique biological, chemical and physical properties.

The addition of nano technologies to manufacturing offers a range of new options for manufacturing things at nano scale. This includes the production of nano scale materials or powders and fluids as well as the development of scalable, high-yield processes for the development of nano scale structures and devices. Nano scale materials provide high surface-to-volume ratios, great packing density and ideal material behavior and properties.

Two Approaches

Manufacturing at nano scale involves top-down fabrication and bottom-up fabrication.

  • Top-down fabrication – reducing a larger piece of material down to nano scale
  • Bottom-up fabrication – building up products from atomic and molecular-scale components

Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages. Looking at the potential disadvantages of top-down fabrication is that it can lead to waste. At the other end of the spectrum with bottom-up fabrication starting from an atomic or molecular level will be a time-consuming process to build things up.

Nano manufacturing Processes

New nano manufacturing processes include chemical vapor deposition, molecular beam epitaxy, atomic layer epitaxy, dip pen and nano print lithography and roll-to-roll processing. The use of nano manufacturing can improve structures and the properties of individual materials, making them stronger and more durable to name a few attributes.

More Attributes of Nano Manufacturing

  • Water repellent
  • Anti-reflective
  • Self-cleaning
  • UV- or infrared resistant
  • Anti-fog
  • Anti-microbial
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Electrically conductive
  • High strength
  • Lightweight

Not Yet Commercialized

Although nano technology is applicable in a range of applications from nano particle deposition systems to nano lubricants and nano engineered polymers, a number of these technologies are not yet commercialized. One source hypothesized the reason for this was that there’s a lack of drive regarding technological pull and concern these nanotechnologies cannot yet be produced at scale. As with all scientific and technological endeavors, there is the potential for things to move slowly and then be quickly fast-tracked depending on who is interested and that entity’s timeline.

For now, it will be up to the manufacturing industry to look for ways to apply current nano technology findings and look for inclusions within the industry.