According to Mark Mills, of Forbes:
“The factory of the future is a fully-automated building filled with robotic systems and software. Purified raw materials and power go in, and a massive stream of customized products comes out. It is an incredibly efficient machine with nary an ounce of waste.”
“The poster child of the factory-of-the-future is visible in a hot new trend in the techno-dweeb sphere, so-called 3D Printing. These machines literally ‘print’ from computer images entire finished parts or simple products, ‘assembling’ from raw metal powders using powerful lasers or electron beams. They work much the same way much your computer’s laser printer does, though in the latter case using much less powerful lasers to print text using powdered inks. One guy, a computer, and a 3D ‘printer’ … presto a desktop factory.”
“The future of manufacturing will be largely determined by the combination of two inexorable facts: technology gets cheaper over time, while labor gets more expensive. At the macro economic level, this trend is favorable to economies that are technology-advancing (i.e., the U.S.), not cheap-labor-centric (i.e., for now, China).”
“If the future of manufacturing is information-centric — from materials innovation, to 3D printing, to disruptive business models — is that a field where China necessarily dominates? Could be, but there is no guarantee. Creativity, innovation, flexibility, flexible education, entrepreneurship are the characteristics needed to foster the new era of manufacturing. These are the hallmarks of the American enterprise.”
Though, as Mills’ article points out, manufacturing based on nascent 3D printing technology is already here, who knows at this point how far this will go, and in what precise direction. Who, in 1990, predicted the internet revolution of the late 1990’s? Not-yet-invented technology is a very hard thing to pin down.
What this article does tell us however - and the reason I bring it up - is that all the doomsayers of America and the worshippers of New China (cf Thomas Freidman) are premature in their prognostications of Chinese hegemony.
In spite of the two horrendous years of damage caused by Obama, Reid and Pelosi, the US still remains the friendliest place in the world for small, start-up business - the kind of organization that pioneers new technology the best. Replace Obama with minimal government President who understands that it is free markets and not crony capitalism that causes real economic growth and America’s best years could yet be ahead for her.
P.S. Embedded in the article is an interesting factoid for all you Mark Steyn-influenced demographers out there:
“Add to this formulation the demographic fact that, by about 2025 America will be a younger country than China.”