3D Printing Could Hand Advantage Back to US and Europe

China are catching up with the US and Europe in terms of technical innovation but are still some way behind, what has given them the advantage over the previous few decades that has seen many manufacturing industries close in the US and Europe and move to China is the amount of cheap labor they have available. This cheap labor has been essential for low cost manufacturing as most modern manufacturing techniques despite automation are still relatively labor intensive especially when it comes to assembly.

3D printing is being developed and used primarily in the US and Canada and over in Europe including the UK and Italy. At the moment 3D printing may be unable to compete with traditional manufacturing techniques for long runs but already prices have come down massively and 3D printing is practical for small runs that previously would simply have been uneconomical or would have been made using traditional techniques such as machining that take a long time to setup.

3D printing can actually make parts ready assembled and can print in an increasing variety of materials, already a fully working cuckoo clock has been made with 3D printing with no assembly required.

One industry that saw little manufacturing move out of the US and Europe was printing, 2D printing that is, that is because printing can be relatively easily setup, especially now that print runs can be setup using computers, and then the manufacturing would basically go ahead with little intervention until it came to sending out books.

With it being so easy to setup a print run now though using computers many book manufacturers use just in time techniques and so if a book is selling fast they will print more and can get them to the shops within days. If books were being manufactured in China or elsewhere in Asia then this just in time technique would be impossible: books that sold less than expected would end up being sold at a loss or pulped and books that were in high demand would sell out leading to lost sales, the transport costs would also be much higher.

The same facts are true for other products though and where for example every year the latest must have toy sells out, products would benefit from being able to be made with just in time techniques but the time to setup a production run and the extra costs of manufacturing in North America or Europe means that companies still opt for China and the benefit outweighs the cost.

Introduce 3D printing though at a cost not necessarily lower than manufacturing with traditional methods in China but low enough that the other extra benefits make it worth while and suddenly you could see manufacturing return to America and Europe which is where the majority of the demand still comes from.

The other thing with 3D printing is that you can have 100 3D printers in 1 building or spread across 10 buildings in ten US states or ten European nations with little extra cost but allowing goods to be made closer to where they will be needed thereby cutting transport costs and allowing demand to be served almost in real time.

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