On March 28th and 29th I attended this year’s Micro / Nano Manufacturing Conference in Boston, hosted by The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME). The primary tracks this year were nano manufacturing, micro machining, micro molding, and micro metrology. Two years ago I attended this same conference in Mesa, AZ, and was obviously overdue for another visit.
As an engineer with a product design company like Key Tech, I tried to extract the “design realm” from the presentations and exhibits. As its name implies, the conference delves heavily into manufacturing on impressively small scales – micro injection molding (MIM) of parts with 0.0015” wall thicknesses, 0.10o draft angles, and so on. The conference also has a strong academic and research contingent that speaks to the future of micro and nano technology – an “atomic rover” made out of single carbon atoms, MEMS technology for measuring in the femto (10-15) – and atto (10-18)- amperes, and so on. Since good, profitable product design bridges these two realms whenever possible, I listened intently. After I had absorbed what I could, the truly difficult challenge was filtering info that is practical to Key Tech right now, from the futuristic, sci-fi, “Petri dish” successes and processes that are a long way from practical application – call it, “present-dependent forward-thinking”.
After much diluting, a few of the micro / nano technologies that Key Tech could realistically incorporate into their designs today include:
- parts impregnated with antimicrobial nanoparticles for increasing shelf-life and time between sterilizations
- tools and parts with micro surface finishes that produce macro results, like drastically improved wipe down “cleanability”, reduced coefficients of friction, and altered optical behavior
- parts and features, machined, etched, cast, stamped or molded, on the micro scale
I’d like to extend my thanks to the SME for hosting this event, and if you’d like to learn more, visit the event homepage here , and check back for updates on the 2013 event to be held in Minneapolis.