In an article from Forbes the writer, Baizhu Chen, said Apple would “be better off focusing on designing iPhones in America but letting the Chinese handle the assembly” because of the current cost structure.
Forbes readers changed his mind after heated discussions and his realization that 3D printing will play a huge role in manufacturing American products in our near future.
Just as cassette tapes gave way to CDs and CDs transitioned towards MP3s so will follow the technology of manufacturing everything. It will not just be about WHERE it is made but HOW it is made.
When 3D printing is added to the equation the game changes. We no longer need to outsource anything. That is, IF we put money into training people in America to use 3D printing machines.
This change will not create new American jobs. It will reduce the number of many positions since it will take fewer people to create a product. We will still need assembly workers to put products into their display boxes or items into a kit. That means we need to shift all our assembly oriented jobs back to being made in America or we will be in a dire situation.
It’s not all doom and gloom here. We have plenty of companies that will continue to make American products “the old fashioned way,” even by hand. It is also still to be determined if 3D made products will have the same quality as traditionally made products.
Product safety will also be important. Items used for food containers such as the plastic Bento Box must not contain phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA), PVC, or lead. So the materials used by 3D printers must evolve.
In some industries 3D manufacturing will bring about miracles. Imagine a new heart valve custom made to fit an individual. Think about racing the lightweight Air Bike in the Tour de France. How about custom shoes for Olympic runners? If we can imagine it we can make it.
This means we need to rethink the role that art and science play together. Those that will excel in this new world need to be creative and technical. In fact the designer can also be the manufacturer in many small businesses. You can buy a small MakerBot 3D printer today for $1,700.
Wait until the next Henry Ford inspired leader figures out how to harness the full potential of 3D printing. We just need to get everyone educated and ready for the explosion when it happens in America.