According to MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld, the digital revolution is over, and the good guys won. The next big change will be about manufacturing. Anyone with a PC will be able to build anything just by hitting ‘print.’
(Fortune Magazine) — Imagine a machine with the ability to manufacture anything. Now imagine that machine in your living room. What would you build first? Would you start a business? Would you ever buy anything retail again? According to MIT physicist Neil Gershenfeld, it’s not too early to think about these questions, because that machine, which he calls a personal fabricator, is not so far off – or so far-fetched – as you might think.
Gershenfeld is director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), an interdisciplinary outfit studying the intersection between information theory and industrial design. He also teaches a course called How to Make (Almost) Anything.
Five years ago the National Science Foundation awarded the CBA $14 million to build a manufacturing lab full of futuristic hardware. That includes a nanobeam writer that can etch microscopic patterns on metal, and a supersonic waterjet cutter that generates 60,000 pounds of water pressure, enough to shear through almost any material. The CBA factory can churn out anything, from the tiniest semiconductor to an entire building.
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