Career & Technical Education


A Technology Content Organizer (TCO)

Broadly defined as: Producing physical objects


The technologies in the Manufacturing technology category support much of the industry in the United States. In some cases, the technologies improve our ability to make a familiar substance such as polyethylene. In other cases, as with some new alloys, they open the use of a new material by producing it economically, changing a material from a laboratory curiosity to a commercial force. In still other cases, the technologies improve our abilities to design and to create a product, and to manage that overall process. This document divides manufacturing technologies into three technology areas: Discrete Product Manufacturing, Continuous Materials Processing, and Micro/Nanofabrication and Machining.

Discrete Product Manufacturing encompasses the most important technological developments in improving our ability to create manufactured products, from the ordinary--an automobile or a television, to the more exotic-- a cooled turbine blade. As such, the technologies are important across the breadth of the manufacturing sector, both for the economic health of that sector and for its ability to create leading edge weaponry for the military.

Continuous Materials Processing concentrates on the developments of most importance to the chemical, petrochemical, and some solid materials industries. These are characterized by a continuous production of materials, which are usually then used in other processes or products. These industries, and thus these technologies, are important both economically and for the military. These technologies also often have the potential to reduce the harmful environmental effects either of alternative industrial processes or of other processes, as energy generation. This is both an end in itself and a growing industry in its own right.

Microfabrication refers to the creation of physical structures with a characteristic scale size of one micron, a millionth of a meter. Historically, this has been, and remains, important to the electronics industry, although other applications have also arisen. Nanofabrication refers to the creation of smaller structures, down to the control and arrangement of individual atoms. Such techniques are still developing, but offer fascinating potential. Both areas are also developing rapidly.

The United States is either on par or in the lead in all technology areas in this technology category. While this is not true in some individual technologies, such as the low and medium technology plastic packaging for semiconductor chips in which the Japanese lead, the United States either leads outright or is well-positioned for the future in all other specific technologies included in the report. (NCT Report 1995)

Technology Areas

Discrete Product Manufacturing
Continuous Materials Processing
Micro/Nanofabrication and Machining


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Last Updated: March 17, 2011