There is an exciting opportunity to start a second digital revolution that will supersede the first digital revolution in information technology (IT) as the primary driver of scientific, technological, and economic growth. This new revolution will be digital fabrication technology. The digital IT revolution has been largely driven by digital algorithms such as error detection and correction and Moore's Law which has given us an exponential trend in product capabilities. However, the longstanding trend in improving manufacturing precision which has enabled Moore's Law simply cannot be continued much longer because we are running into the limits imposed by the quantized nature of matter. At this scale, matter can no longer be treated in an analogue fashion i.e. as an infinitely divisible medium, but must be treated as an integer number of discrete atomic distances, i.e. in a digital fashion. By embracing this digital nature of matter, we can conceive of a digital fabrication technology, where the digital processes are the making and breaking of chemical bonds, there is a digital address grid that is spatial in nature, and error detection and correction processes can be developed. This digital fabrication technology will have the similarly huge advantages over analog fabrication that digital IT has over analog IT. We remind the reader that effective digital technologies are not exclusively digital in their operation. Digital electronics is carried out by analog transistors that are embedded in circuitry designed to accept their output in a digital fashion. Digital fabrication technology is not synonymous with Atomically Precise Manufacturing (APM) but should lead to that important capability. Furthermore this digital fabrication technology will start a new exponential manufacturing trend that will replace Moore's law and will not be just for information processing and therefore will have an even larger impact than Moore's Law. Like any exponential trend Digital Fabrication will start slowly in a few niche markets, but the time for investing in the development of this new technology is now.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics
- Condensed Matter Physics
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Electrical and Electronic Engineering