Micromanufacturing: International Assessment of Research and Development
By Ehmann, K.F., Bourell, D., Culpepper, M.L., Hodgson, T.J., Kurfess, Th.R., Madou, M., Rajurkar, K., DeVor, R.
This international technology assessment study has focused on the emerging global trend toward the miniaturization of manufacturing processes, equipment and systems for microscale components and products, i.e., “Small Equipment for Small Parts”. It encompasses the creation of miniaturized units or hybrid processes integrated with metrology, material handling and assembly to create microfactories capable of producing microprecision products in a fully automated manner at low cost. The study has investigated both the state-of-the-art as well as emerging technologies from the scientific, technological, and commercialization perspectives across key industrial sectors in the U.S., Asia and Europe including medical, electronics, aerospace, and consumer products. This study does NOT include the lithographic-based processes common to the microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) community. While the U.S. gets high marks for nanotechnology R&D, emphasis in the U.S. on micromanufacturing R&D is lagging behind the rest of the world, particularly in technology transfer and ongoing development. This will undoubtedly have serious long-term implications, since it is well-recognized that micromanufacturing will be a critical enabling technology in bridging the gap between nanoscience and technology developments and their realization in useful products and processes. While examples do exist where U.S. government programs are focused squarely on industry-university-government collaboration, the scale of efforts both in Asia and Europe is significantly larger. On this latter point, Europe appears to be very strong, particularly as these partnerships work to refine and fine-tune developments for industry adaptation and commercialization.
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