Precision manufacturing applications and challe n ges
We will focus here on precision manufacturing processes and equipment related to unique applications for which the manufacturing capability is the enabler for the product, starting with the semiconductor industry. This is logical as this industry segment accounts for tremendous growth and sales that drive, literally, the rest of the economy. It continues to influence new product development having been the basis of the creation of micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) and, more recently, nanotechnology. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) reports that the “chip market” worldwide approached the $230 billion mark in 2005 (and the US market share is about 60%). In 2005, the semiconductor industry made over 90 million transistors for every man, woman and child on Earth, and by 2010, this number should be 1 billion transistors. Other industries certainly contribute to the US and global economy. But semiconductors drive the development of key process technology that, eventually, ends up impacting other industries, autos, for example. And this is not counting the significant usage of computers and related control devices in autos and other products already. Recently, the growth in alternate energy sources (photovoltaics, for example) is linked to capability in basic semiconductor processes. Finally, the growth in nanotechnology and applications will drive precision manufacturing as well. Much of that process technology is based in semiconductorlike processes. So, we will consider here the semiconductor industry the source or headwaters of the stream of precision technology flow and, often slowly but surely, the flow influences the more traditional industries.
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