You don't know much about Georgia Tech. Dr. Nazanin Bassiri-Gharb is professor of mechanical engineering specializing in microelectronic mechanical systems (MEMS). She was formerly the Senior Engineer at QUALCOMM MEMS Technologies, Inc.
Like most research at Georgia Tech, this will likely continue to be developed either thru other sponsored research or spun-off thru Georgia Techs technology company incubation. It is highly unlikely an AFM would be used for production but it is a good research tool for a lab. I have no idea what the production technology will be but I'm betting Dr. Bassiri-Gharb has some ideas.
At the outset, this article appears to be an effort of over-enthusiasm to get the news of their accomplishments out there, whether it has practical value or not! I agree this should be left to some engineers to make it practical.
The truth is always better but saying that the study of something will end isn't necessarily that the effort was worthless. Many of the scientific knowledge achieved is lika a small brick from your home. What is a small brick worth? less than a buck, but when all the bricks are put together to make a wall and then four walls with a ceilling and then make up a big building... that is science. Is a huge building in which we shelter our lives and in which we live better. Let's see if in the near future this discovery has an application... to be honest... I'm skeptical also.
I was interested up until I read AFM. Why do academics feel the need to justify their work by ending articles with grandiose suggestions for how the work could be applied to real products?
Why not just say the truth. This is a novel new method of patterning ferroelectric materials that we will employ for the next 6-10 papers/conferences and when the current batch of graduate students/post-docs leave, and we have extracted all the grant money we can from this topic, our study of this will end.
Cheap plastic? You will earn a PhD having worked out the economics and pragmatism of that one? An AFM, writing one location at a time on a 1 inch square piece of plastic, at 1ms between locations (an awfully fast servo) and zero time to place the material on the tip, assuming perfect planarity and locus spacings, with zero defects or any impurities at all in the plastic, and 200GBYTES, would take over 6,000 YEARS to write. At $6/hour for a post doc to oversee the AFM, how much will that memory "on cheap plastic" cost (don't forget to add in the cost of 6,000,000 pizzas and 20,000,000 Dr Peppers)? Where will Moore's law be by the time you finish the first and only device? Talk about your work as researchers and let the ENGINEERS figure out how to turn it into something useful and pragmatic and what exactly that would be - you just denigrate your credibility and marvellous accomplishment with such application drivel.