A breakthrough in manufacturing could help put the U.S. back on top
The future is starting to show itself, and in surprising ways.
The big news in the manufacturing world, as Paul Davidson reports in USA Today, is 3-D printing. Like a tangible, industrial hologram, 3-D printers are able to "stitch together industrial parts by meticulously spreading hundreds or thousands of layers of powdered metal onto a canvas until they form three-dimensional shapes."
Essentially, the latest digital technology has come to the manufacturing world. 3-D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is gaining use as a way to produce small runs of actual molds and parts.
Lower-cost 3-D printers can cost as little as $2,000 and are used to make jewelry and toys. But the bigger ramping up is for industrial printers that can produce advanced parts.
Davidson says that because 3-D printing requires only a few employees, it could potentially "neutralize the low-cost labor advantage that countries such as China and India enjoy over the U.S.":
That, along with 3-D printing's ability to accommodate quick product launches, is expected to accelerate a nascent "reshoring" trend that has seen a growing number of manufacturers bring some production back to the U.S.
Davidson quotes Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), as saying of 3-D printing: "It becomes very cost competitive with anything you can get from China."
3-D printing may eventually help lead to a "growing number of factories that likely will relocate to the U.S." to take advantage of such new technology.
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