3D printing gets us closer to the sweet spot
With the high costs and limitations of 3D printing today, why should we expect it to affect traditional manufacturing?
The answer: rising labor costs, rising fuel costs and sharp progress in 3D printing.
We've put together this animated graphic to show the trend.
Rising labor costs
Since the 80s, China has been a manufacturing powerhouse for the world because of more open foreign policies, strong infrastructure and low labor costs. Now, with a maturing economy and a more educated workforce, labor costs will continue to rise, and our exchange rate against the yuan will continue to weaken.
While we have turned to other developing countries with manufacturing capabilities, the population in these countries is significantly smaller so it will be more difficult for them to sustain a significant level of low-cost manufacturing as long as China has.
Rising fuel costs
Another modern truth is rising fuel and thus shipping costs. Until we come up with a viable alternative energy source, this trend will naturally result in a shift from long-distance to more local manufacturing.
What to expect with 3D printing
With investment and technological innovation as well as expiring patents in early 2014, exciting times are ahead as 3D will become more widespread and cost-efficient. Within a couple of years, the entire ecosystem will expand and improve tremendously, from hardware to materials to software. We cannot wait.