Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines

© 2004 Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Ralph C. Merkle. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Ralph C. Merkle, Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 2004.


4.20 Zyvex Microscale Assemblers (2003)

According to the new Zyvex corporate website [2248] in early 2004: “Zyvex Research Activities support both shorter term Product Development Projects and our longer-term goals of molecularly precise manufacturing.”

“The NIST-ATP project will develop prototype microscale assemblers using MicroElectroMechanical Systems (MEMS), extend the capabilities to nanometer geometries, and develop NanoElectroMechanical Systems (NEMS) for prototype nanoscale assemblers. The program is structured to develop systems providing highly parallel microassembly and nanoassembly for real-world, high-volume applications. Zyvex proposed the NIST-ATP project in order to accelerate the technical, economic, and societal benefits of nanotechnology and to assist the United States in achieving a leadership position in the emerging nanotechnology arena. Other project participants are Zyvex’s joint venture partner Honeywell International, Inc. and university collaborators Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Center for Automation Technologies, and the University of Texas at Dallas.”

“Zyvex’s Automation Project seeks to develop automated manipulation and assembly of micro, nano, and molecular scale components, for applications ranging from research to high volume manufacturing. The project was initiated to develop the following capabilities:

Automated precision assembly of millimeter and microscale components into unique systems (hybrid assembly)

• Automated manipulation of nanoscale and molecular-scale components for R&D of novel structures

• Microscale grippers, actuators, connectors, and automated systems

• Contract application development for precision automated assembly and manipulation techniques

The current capital equipment reality is that very high precision in assembly equipment demands a very high cost premium, and ever more elaborate schemes are required to assure system accuracy. Further, the macro schemes currently employed cannot deliver massively parallel processing. No firm has yet developed a cost-effective solution to this macroscale model, but microscale tooling has the potential to deliver a cost effective solution.”

“Zyvex was founded to become the world’s leading supplier of tools, products and services that enable adaptable, affordable, and molecularly precise manufacturing. Zyvex has been developing technology that will eventually lead to a Molecular Assembler technology. The Zyvex definition of a Molecular Assembler is ‘a user-controlled fabrication tool capable of creating molecularly precise structures with 3-dimensional capability in an economically viable manner.’ When it is brought to full fruition, this technology will revolutionize virtually all manufacturing technologies with the ability to produce machines and materials with molecular precision. However, we understand that a high throughput molecular assembler manufacturing technology is, in fact, a very long-term project. We have identified a path that will produce value as we work toward our long-term goal. In fact, all of the products and projects currently being pursued at Zyvex have been developed as a result of our efforts towards a Molecular Assembler. We have also identified a number of high-value, low-volume products that will be produced with prototype molecular assemblers that have very limited output capabilities. While we have spent considerable effort investigating molecular pick and place as an approach to a Molecular Assembler, we are exploring other approaches.

The Molecular Assembler Project currently consists of three coordinated efforts: Micro Automation, Molecularly Precise Tools, and Patterned Atomic Layer Epitaxy.”

”The Micro Automation effort is a result of the realization that affordable molecularly precise manufacturing for many products will only be possible with massive parallelism. Parallel micro-assembly (being supported in part by our NIST-ATP) will develop both the system architecture needed to handle parallel assembly, and the assemblers at the microscale required to deal with the output of large throughput molecular assemblers. The parallel micro assembly technology we develop will provide huge value to Zyvex by lowering assembly costs of the microsystems being produced today by the microelectronics, telecommunications, and biomedical industries.

We undertook the Molecularly Precise Tool Project in order to deal with the significant limitations that current scanning probe tips and other molecular manipulation tools have placed on science and technology. We are convinced that nano and molecular manipulation technology will not get out of the research labs until molecularly precise tips and other tools are developed. We believe that molecular pick and place will not be viable until dependable molecularly precise tools are available.

The Patterned Atomic Layer Epitaxy Project will combine two known experimental techniques to produce atomically precise nanostructures. In our view, this is the best approach to a molecular assembler that can make reasonable progress before molecularly precise tools are available. When the Molecularly Precise Tool Project produces a superior tip for patterning, this will greatly improve patterned atomic layer epitaxy and enable its scale-up to large parallelism. However, such tools will also enable significant progress in molecular pick and place technology. Zyvex will constantly be evaluating the best path to a massively parallel molecular assembler.”

According to CRN Executive Director Mike Treder [2337], reporting from the “Imaging and Imagining Nanoscience and Engineering Conference” held at the University of South Carolina in March 2004, Zyvex CEO James von Ehr announced “that his company has a ten-year plan to build a molecular assembler, that is, a machine system capable of atomically precise manufacturing at the nanoscale. Of course, as he admitted, they had an earlier, even more ambitious plan that they’ve had to revise. But he said they learned a lot from that experience, and seems confident that this current effort has a good chance of success. The new Zyvex approach will combine top-down work in nanolithography with bottom-up designs in scanning probe depositional chemistry.”


Last updated on 1 August 2005