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January 2nd, 2008

Advisory Board: Go on green

John Usher, University of Louisville

Think of the energy and natural resources consumed to produce the flow of all the goods through the supply chain to deliver a pair of shoes to a consumer. What if we could get products to consumers without a logistics system? Two emerging technologies, direct digital manufacturing and nanotechnology, may make this possible. Nanotechnology involves the science and engineering of the extremely small. It involves building devices on the nanometer scale (1 billionth of a meter). Scientists and engineers all over the world are racing to produce smaller and smaller devices such as pumps, motors and complex assemblies by controlling the exact placement of individual atoms. Direct digital manufacturing (DDM) involves the manufacture of devices using a 3-D computer model and layer-by-layer techniques such a laser sintering, stereo lithography, direct metal deposition. It is not hard to forecast a small desktop unit that could manufacture items one atom at a time from a simple supply of common base elements. Need a new pair of shoes? Just download the 3-D model, send it to your desktop fabricator, and build them on the spot. The greener "anti-logistics" logistics system lies ahead.


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