Scaling Up by Scaling Small
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15-04-2014, 12:36 PM
Scaling Up by Scaling Small
Decades ago when flat screen technology was getting started one of the technological hurdles was production yield of large displays. The bigger the display the lower the yield. It occurred to me at that time that a solution would be to only make tiny displays, then make arrays of them into any sized large screen desired. The yields on tiny screens were high, so the costs thus recovered by high yield would pay for the development of the array mechanism design.

I don't know if the display manufacturers ever went that route, or have managed to solve the yield problem in other ways, but to me the concept was sound, and is a design approach I don't think has yet fully taken hold as much as it should.

In biology, the largest structure is the cell. Anything larger than a cell is made of cells. This architecture has a stupendous success record. All of life thrives by it.

Cells are tiny. Cells are simple (compared to the structures they comprise). One or a few broken cells negligibly impairs the larger structure. A particular cell has application in a wide variety of structures, and many if not most specialized cells only differ from each other by few variances.

In macro technology I don't see a cellular approach to design. We only relatively recently are adopting modular design, which approaches cellular design but not quite.

Patent laws may inhibit this approach, and may be one reason a cellular approach isn't common. I'm not suggesting patent laws be overturned but, just as they are undergoing overhaul to catch up to technology, this would be another element of overhaul.

Today one of the hottest manufacturing tracks is 3D printing. The technology promises an end to many production difficulties and expense involved in fabricating diverse components. It strikes me that adopting a cellular approach to macro design could be even hotter than 3D printing.

It's the model intrinsic to every biological structure we know, from aphid to blue whale. Its track record of success spans millions of millenia and billions of structures. Why not follow it when inventing the next toaster, roadster, space ship or mousetrap?
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