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Growing Metal In The Shape You Want

Seattle startup Modumetal has found a way to effectively grow metal parts rather than molding or cutting from larger pieces.


(Conventional metal part on the left, and a metal part grown by startup Modumetal on the right.)

However, Modumetal uses nanotechnology — manipulation of matter at the molecular level — to micromanage at a very small scale to better control the conditions and substances through which electroplating occurs. Basically, the company grows metal on a surface in a way that makes it easier to shape and tinker with the material’s characteristics...

The process creates a metal that is grown layer-by-layer. The different ways to grow the layers creates variety in the metal’s properties and shape. Lomasney says to think about the resulting material like plywood, but the plies, or pieces, are created at the nanotech level.

The industry calls these layered metals “metal laminates,” and they’ve been around in the industry for a while...

It seems to me that Frank Herbert talked about this idea in his monumental 1965 novel Dune; he refers to enormous structures made out of fanmetal, which he describes as a material created by growing jasmium crystals in duraluminum:

Will you look at that thing!" Stilgar whispered. The tall eastern face of the ship glistened in the flat light of the sun, but the shadow side still showed yellow portholes from glowglobes of the night...

It wasn't the lighter that excited Stilgar's awe, Paul knew, but the construction for which the lighter was only the centerpost. A single metal hutment, many stories tall, reached out in a thousand-meter circle from the base of the lighter -- a tent composed of interlocking metal leaves -- the temporary lodging place for five legions of Sardaukar and His Imperial Majesty, the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV...

And the Baron waited [within], glancing left and right at the metal walls of the selamlik, thinking of the monstrous fanmetal tent around him. Such unlimited wealth it represented that even the Baron was awed.

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