Accelerating futures discusses the leap in capabilities that will happen when we go from the first full desktop nanofactory to 200 million in 1 month
We will have lower performance version of full diamondoid molecular nanotechnology.
DNA nanotechnology and maturing near nanotech (I define near-nano as the growing matter control capabilities in the 2-20nanometer range).
It has started and it will be ramped up over the next few years. DNA has 1/50000 the material strength of diamond.
DNA nano will be mixed with polymers and other chemicals. The range of materials will grow and the degree of control will grow.
Regular production and rapid prototyping systems with faster and more flexible automation will also close somewhat the size of the leap in capability.
The nanomaterial revolution is starting to hit now before full desktop nanofactories.
We are getting materials like M5 fiber which is 2 to 4 times better than fibers like advanced kevlar.
Condensed multi-wall nanotubes is an example of steady progress to increase production, lower costs and accessing more of the full strength of carbon nanotubes. Improved bulk processes could give us fairly common and inexpensive access to carbon nanotube enhanced polymers and carbon nanotubes with up to 50GPa of strength.
We could get the taste of exponential manufacturing but with industrial scaled processes and using DNA and polymers. Plus mixing in other materials with near-nano precision. We also get the use of stronger of materials. Those will mainly be used initially in expensive systems and used in small quantities in parts of common systems. In 5-10 years, a lot of strong carbon nanotube material could be incorporated into a lot of products.
The full effect of nanofactories will not be felt until it is accompanied by acceleration of logistics and mining and processing of materials.
I also think the desktop nanofactory like the personal computer will be preceeded by the equivalent of mainframes. Big factories and labs with a lot of people using pre-cursor systems that could be less flexible but with products of comparable performance.
More on the materials revolution:
Los Alamos appears to have created 50 GPA superthread material in bulk quantities. They expect to making kilograms quantities early in 2007 and then scaling up to industrial quantities after that They look to continue to refine the processes to make stronger stuff.
Theoretical article on using condensed multi-wall carbon nanotubes to get to 48.5GPA