Distributed manufacturing using Tech-Labs in the 2050s. Now also referred to as the Nano Fabrication age.
In 2050, traditional factories producing millions of products no longer exist. These have been replaced by Tech-Labs (TLs) (see def below) fabricating products on demand.
Global shipping is obsolete, except for shipping to and from OTLs (see def below). Cargo carriers and the historical retail-supply-chain economy have become extinct.
This demise of the retail-supply-chain economy was mainly due to the highly advanced Nano-Fab Technology (NF-Tech – see def below) developed since the 2030s.
The proliferation of NF-Tech since the 2030s generated new opportunities for technically minded individuals and small businesses, encouraging them to set up mini-Tech-Labs to sere their local communities. During the early 2030s, it was seen as a novelty, but by late 2030s quality and production time improved to a degree to make the products indistinguishable from the traditionally made ones.
By mid-2040s, TLs started producing the first microchips and human organs in space. Note that human tissue and lab grown meat had already been in development by mid-2020s, but by 2040 they started fabricating these on a molecular level.
By late 2030s, the quality of TLs' output resulted in rapid adoption of locally produced TL products by the public. It became the latest craze. By mid-2040s, mass market products, such as furniture, garments, fashion accessories, etc., started coming out of TLs. This rapid spread of TL made products spelled the end of the traditional retail economy.
Fabrication no longer required multiple components or sub-assemblies (plastics, metals, electronics, screws, etc.) contributed by other manufacturers. All these were now made by Tech-Labs at one place using the single additive or NF-Tech manufacturing process – all by the same machine. Something like a Star Trek Replicator (see def below).
There are no more retail stores selling electronics, furniture, clothes, etc. Most modern homes have mini fabrication appliances installed by default. These are as common as TVs and can produce many smaller products. Product types are only limited by the model you own. Larger and more complex items are produced by local or national licensed TLs.
Global warming, super bugs causing epidemics, and the decline in fossil fuel usage further influenced the rapid adoption of Nano fabrication by governments. By late 2040s, world governments invested trillions to develop locally grown Nano-fabrication labs to ensure that all conceivable products could be produced locally.
The traditional third world countries are still lagging the rest of the Western world but now see themselves as developed – with their own Tech Labs, virtual farms, and drone delivery technology. Raw materials supply is slow, as they still use the traditional vehicles, such as airships, for delivery to remote areas.
TAHC-CORP (def below) is developing a new hyperloop cargo network through Africa, its main loop running between Ramses City (old Cairo) in Egypt and Hui !Gaeb (old Cape Town) in Azania (old South Africa). This hyperloop network will facilitate raw materials distribution between Africa and the rest of the world. The hyperloop cargo network will be further improved by two space ports at the two main hubs, scheduled for completion by 2064.
• Product developers publish their products at a global electronic marketplace for use by licensed product brokers and shopping services.
• Product brokers operate online shopping facilities and are responsible for marketing and consumer interaction (middlemen as in the traditional retail economy).
• Product brokers only deal with high value products like EVs (see def below), bots and high-end technologies, body parts and organs. (Side Note – Traditional doctors are on the brink of extinction. All medical interactions are with bots and the medical AI. In some cases, bots are assisted by medical experts using the VR tech)
• General consumer products are available through online shopping services.
• Once an item is purchased, the order and specifications go to the closest TL with the capacity and license to fabricate the product.
• Alternately, if the home fabricator has the capability, it will be used to produce the purchased item.
• Delivery is normally accomplished by drone or bot. In situations where the product is fabricated remotely, it will be shipped to the closest hyperloop hub and then delivered via the bot grid (see def below).
• The raw materials (RM) used by Tech-Labs are produced around the globe and come either in powder or liquid form.
• Most RMs are shipped via hyperloop but, depending on their IP classification, they may be shipped using more secure and protected transport options. The most valuable RMs are shipped using space ports.
• Powder is normally used to produce plastics, metals, glass and ceramics, while liquid comes in thousands of forms and is used to fabricate anything from simple household products to sophisticated ones like electronics, EVs, Bots, body parts and organs.
• Most liquid RMs contain a concoction of chemicals specifically formulated for the type of product.
• Advanced liquid RMs are basically Intellectual Property in liquid form, and some of them are highly classified and contain nano materials and nano-bots. Highly regulated and well protected by their IP owners, these are commonly referred to as liquid gold. (Side note – the term liquid gold was coined during the early days of the nano fabrication development, but in truth, most of liquid gold is about 100 times more valuable than real gold on the crypto market.)
• All Tech-Lab fabricated products are fully recyclable.
• Products are chipped during production and tracked throughout their lifecycle. Consumers get a rebate for returning a used product when it is replaced (all is automated through tracking chips).
• High-end products are returned to the Tech-Lab of origin. This is a legal requirement, and it also allows IP owners to retrieve their IP components.
• Products produced by smaller and private Tech-Labs, including traditionally made ones, are forwarded to government-run recycling facilities.
• Since 2045, unrecyclable products are sent to 0% emission incinerators producing power and generating carbon they supply as a raw material to manufacturers.
• New high tech recycling facilities are now also capable of mining old landfills for raw materials.
Nano-Fab Technology (NF Tech)
NF Tech refers to a fusion of nanotechnology and additive manufacturing which enables the creation of highly complex products on a microscopic or molecular level.
Tech-Lab is a fabrication facility combining product development and fabrication in a single business. TLs develop and create products on demand using the traditional additive and/or Nano-Fab technology. Most of the advanced TLs are owned and operated by global corporations, but common consumer products are produced by locally owned TLs. Larger and corporate-owned TLs are required to recycle their products by international law.
OTLs are Tech-Labs in geosynchronous orbit around Earth and Mars. Some of the highly specialized TLs require weightless conditions to fabricate pharmaceuticals and human parts and organs. These orbital TLs are owned and operated by a well-known trillionaire who had established the first human colonies on the Moon and Mars.
EV or Electric Vehicle can denote any mode of transport. EVs are all electrical and most are autonomous. Manufacturers stopped making combustion engines by mid-2040s, and most countries followed suit by banning their usage. In some countries collectors and museums have permits to exhibit these old cars at shows in controlled environments to prevent pollution and poisoning the spectators. Fuel for these cars is produced by collectors under strict regulations. Such shows are extremely popular among kids, as they have never seen vehicles make so much noise and require a human for steering.
Start Trek Replicator
In Star Trek (science fiction TV series from 1966), a replicator is a machine that can create (and recycle) things. Replicators were originally designed to simply synthesize meals on demand.
TAHC-CORP (Technology for the Advancement of Human Civilization) is a conglomerate established in the late-2020s by global banks and corporations with a focus on the advancement of human civilization. Many of its projects deal with modern transportation, space travel and planetary exploration.
Bot Grid is an advanced automated cargo delivery network.
All cities have them. These are mostly underground, while some also operate above ground due to infrastructure restrictions. Bot grids are used to transport all non-human cargo, from small to max 3 cubic meters in volume. These grids and bots are controlled by an advanced AI, which also plans and prioritizes deliveries to destinations as soon as an order is placed. The AI guarantees exact delivery time down to the minute.
About 300x300mm in size, the bots are autonomous and able to carry most of the smaller products. They also allow being stacked, if multiple products go to the same destination. If an item is too bulky for the platform – like a chair or table – multiple bots will assemble into a bigger platform to carry it.
The Bot Grid is linked to Tech Labs, Hyper-Loop stations, apartment blocks and general businesses via cargo lifts that are also controlled by the AI. Modern buildings have sub-grids delivering products/parcels to the ultimate destination – an office or residence.
Products are chipped in fabrication and tracked all through their life until final disposal (see recycling). Products are handled by bots only, and no packaging materials are used. Support materials are used extremely sparingly to facilitate loading and transportation, but are immediately returned to Tech-Labs or forwarded for recycling.
No humans are allowed inside the bot grid. In case of failure, maintenance bots will act to remove obstructions and make repairs. A human error caused a catastrophic failure in 2045 – resulting in country-wide delays of several hours – after a technician tripped over a bot and damaged several others. In the wake of this failure, many customers and companies sued their governments due to disruptions and financial losses. Since then, the Bot Grids have been deemed critical infrastructure of national security significance.