End of an era for Chinese manufacturing?

There has been lot of concern lately about money leaving China, real-estate and infrastructure pricing growing too fast. However Chinese economy could be facing a larger and much more longer term threat: manufacturing bubble.

Chinese manufacturing competitiveness has been relying on cheap labor production in order to compete with the rest of the World, and has been very successful so far. But lately rising labor costs, lack of government regulation and interference on IP theft have been causing many US companies to move parts of the production back to the US.

However these threats may seem large, they might be small compared to the technological development in robotics, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and especially 3D printing. These areas have not been developing rapidly, but we are seeing a change in this led by 3D printing, if you look at how fast the industry is growing.

There has been a lot talk about robot technology becoming cheaper and that many companies are already applying that to their production lines. However 3D printing goes way beyond that. By enabling home printing for designs, we minimize the need for mass production, at least for certain items. But the technology is evolving…

China has all the reason to worry as these technologies will lower their competitive edge, cheap labor, and more and more manufacturing is moving out of the country. It no longer makes sense to ship parts to china for assembly and then to ship it back to the origin country.

There might be a bigger change ahead of us than we even can imagine yet. Carl Bass, one of the leading 3D printing authorities shares his views of an era of abundance. However are we big enough to control this change, and how it will effect on the society in a larger scale, will remain to be seen.