With China having a World 3D printing conference, it’s hard to say. The Chinese advantage has been land and low cost labor. How quickly will they adopt a No Cost Labor solution? China has grabbed outsourced-manufacturing contracts from every mature economy by pushing the mass-manufacturing model to its limit. It not only aggregates enough demand to create unprecedented efficiencies of scale but also minimizes a key cost: labor. Chinese government interventions have been pro-producer at every turn, favoring the growth of the country’s manufacturers over the purchasing power and living standards of its consumers.
Under a model of widely distributed, highly flexible, small-scale manufacturing, these daunting advantages become liabilities. No workforce can be paid little enough to make up for the cost of shipping across oceans. And few managers raised in a pro-producer climate have the consumer instincts to compete on customization.
China won’t be a loser in the new era; like every nation, it will have a domestic market to serve on a local basis, and its domestic market is huge. And not all products lend themselves to 3-D printing. But China will have to give up on being the mass-manufacturing powerhouse of the world. The strategy that has given it such political heft won’t serve it in the future. And given the actual labor shortage in China, 3D Printing seems a natural progression. Listen to the 3D Printing Podcast about a Chinese firm from Taiwan that is in the US market.