Posted: January 19, 2010

Busting seven myths about micro- and nanomanufacturing

(Nanowerk News) Does machining or molding something so small that you can’t see it with the naked eye seem like science fiction to you? Then perhaps you are one of the manufacturing practitioners who need a few myths busted.
While they may sound like futuristic concepts, in fact, micromanufacturing and nanomanufacturing are becoming the biggest thing in our industry since the moving assembly line.
A recent survey by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) found that out of 400 manufacturing professionals who expressed an interest in micromanufacturing, only half are already using it in their products today. And more than 60 percent indicate nanotechnology is important to their organization’s future growth.
There are many myths associated with these smallest manufacturing processes and SME wants to bust them into nano-sized particles so that manufacturing practitioners can take advantage of these real-life sci-fi opportunities.
Myth #1: Nanomanufacturing and micromanufacturing are technologies that may be something great in the future, but they are not viable for today’s business environment.
Fact: Both nanomanufacturingand micromanufacturing are actively being used by many manufacturers. Nanomanufacturing is a key enabler of the new generation of lithium batteries for electric cars. Micromanufacturing is being used by Boeing, RubberMaid, Gillette and many other companies.
Myth #2: Micromanufacturing is only used in the electronics industry.
Fact: Not any more. Micromanufacturing reaches far beyond electronics. For example, it is essential in the production of many medical devices and critical aerospace systems.
Myth #3: Micro and nano are just reduced sizes of the “life-sized” objects.
Fact: The rules of the game are changed when dealing with these technologies. There are significant process and material behavior changes beyond size that you need to understand.
Myth #4: If I can machine “small” stuff, I can “micro” machine.
Fact: Machining micro pieces requires special tools and skills. In traditional machining, the greater force is exerted by the tool onto the material. For micromanufacturing, it flips, and the material exerts more force on the tool.
Myth #5: If I can mold “small” stuff, I can mold micro particles.
Fact: Molding micro pieces also requires special tools and skills. Often with micro molding, the piece or feature is smaller than the pellet size of the material. This requires special attention to the flow, pressure, fill time and increased impact of the material reaction with the mold wall and, most critically, the design of the mold itself.
Myth #6: Even if I wanted to use micro or nanomanufacturing processes, tools, suppliers and materials are practically non-existent.
Fact: While that once was true, it’s not so much any more. There are growing numbers of processes, tools, materials and suppliers available for manufacturers ready to move into micro and nano manufacturing.
Myth #7: What is happening in this field is all “hush, hush”, so I can’t find experts to teach me.
Fact: There will be plenty of experts sharing knowledge at the MicroManufacturing Conference & Exhibitions and the NanoManufacturing Conference Exhibitions, April 14-15, 2010, at the Hilton Phoenix East in Mesa, Ariz.
These co-located events offer insightful information on cutting edge technology. At the MicroManufacturing Conference manufacturers will discover how to improve part quality and lower production costs, gain a better understanding of the proper techniques and applications that can be used in daily operations and learn effective solutions to real-world problems.
Attendees at the NanoManufacturing Conference will learn the latest nanotechnology applications and trends in top-down fabrication and bottom-up assembly. They can explore ways to use nanotechnology to make products and obtain information in order to benchmark their operations against other nanomanufacturers worldwide. The leading developers of nano tools and manufacturing systems will also be on hand to discuss their products.
For those who have problems getting beyond the myths, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers will host two free webinars: Understanding NanoManufacturing: An Introduction to a New World on February 9, 2010, 1 p.m. ET hosted by SME’s Nanomanufacturing Tech Group.; and MicroManufacturing: Getting Even Smaller on February 10, 2010, 11 a.m. ET.
Micromanufacturing and nanomanufacturing are becoming big business. And when it comes to these processes, what you don’t know can hurt your business.
About SME
Founded in 1932, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers is the premier source for manufacturing knowledge, education and networking. Through its many programs, events and activities, SME connects manufacturing practitioners to each other, to the latest technology and the most up-to-date processes spanning all manufacturing industries and disciplines, plus the key areas of aerospace and defense, medical device, motor vehicles, including motorsports, oil and gas and alternative energy. A 501(c)3 organization, SME has members around the world and is supported by a network of technical communities and chapters worldwide.
Source: Society of Manufacturing Engineers