The past three centuries have seen the evolution of new and effective technologies creating disruptions in the manufacturing domain allowing businesses to function efficiently. Manufacturing over time has evolved from mass production to smart production enabled by advances in technology. The companies around the world are in a race to uncover technological innovations which can enable them to compete and gain a cutting edge. Hence there is an increased emphasis on R&D to shape an automated & smarter manufacturing framework in line with the Organization’s visions.
Currently there is a lot of buzz around the incorporation of nanotechnology into the manufacturing fold. Initially used in the semiconductor industry at the turn of the millennium, the past few years have seen the rapid commercialization of products manufactured using nanoscale technologies. Nanomanufacturing is now being used in a wide range of fields from electronics to clothing, automotive and biotech industries. Nanotechnology industry was appraised at $1.76 billion in 2020 and is expected to grow to $33.63 billion by 2030.
What is Nanotechnology?
Nanotechnology involves the manipulation and manufacture of nanoscopic material structures between 1 & 100 nano meters in size. Nano can be any material which contains at least 50% of its particles in the aforementioned size range. This is appealing to manufacturers as working at atomic levels give them greater control over the parts being built. These tiny particles which are developed often display unique properties compared to the standard particles. Similarly, they are also being combined with non-nano materials to yield unique results. For example: Carbon nanotubes are used when manufacturer requires high wear resistance at lighter weights like in bike frames. They are also combined with steel to increase its strength ultimately reducing the amount of material and lowering the overall weight.
Nanomanufacturing can be done in two ways- Top-Down or Bottom-Up
- Top-Down manufacturing starts with a larger raw material which is then broken down into nano particles. This approach is followed when the manufacturer needs to use a material in the normal scale at the nano level like the nanoparticles from Diamond which show high thermal conductivity.
- Bottom-Up approach involves creation of products from atomic components by using chemical or physical forces. It gives the engineer greater flexibility and reduces waste in comparison with the Top-Down approach.
Applications of Nanomaterials
- Coatings have been made from nanoparticles which are uniform in nature. In 2015, Modumetal developed a nanocoating which when blended with steel, increased its strength by 10 times and made it more resistant to corrosion.
- Nanoparticles are also used as Lubricants along with oil or by applying them to solid surfaces to improve wear resistance. In automotive industry, the nano particles are being used in manufacturing improved car products like motor oil. Tire manufacturers are also using nano composites in high end tires to improve their durability.
- Improvements in nanomanufacturing have greatly benefitted the semiconductor industry. Example: Carbon nanotubes with flexible electronic capabilities. IBM recently created a computer built from Carbon nanotube transistors. There are also graphene semiconductor chips being developed in the nanoscale. Nanotechnology is ushering in the next generation of highly chips & transistors at the nanoscale resulting in highly flexible gadgets and circuit boards which has the potential to be a gamechanger.
- Nanomachines & nanobots are being created from physiochemical or biological components which self-assemble themselves into machines at nano scale. The future will involve these machines/bots being used in conjunction with IOT to create a more proactive supply chain, maximizing the essence of IOT and widening the nano footprint in manufacturing across industries.
Nanotechnology in conclusion will enable manufacturers to develop lighter products at a faster rate without compromising on their efficiency and usability. Going forward manufacturers will be using nanomaterials more extensively through efficient processes to produce better quality products at lower costs. ERP software is going to play a significant role in ensuring visibility, control and traceability of such nano products identifying potential issues right from assembly process till merchandise delivery without impacting the end consumers. Though still nascent, the growing popularity of these products suggest manufacturing is in for a nano future.