As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the winds are set to blow more manufacturing back to the US over the next 20 years.
The first reason that I noted in that post is the changing demography of China.
The second reason — and topic of this post — is the changing nature of manufacturing and the opportunities it creates by opening up innovation to a much larger group of people. Right now, we have an incredible wave of innovation from people who have ideas of digital things or services who can make them into actual digital things and services; think Facebook, Google, Linkedin, Instagram, etc.
That same creativity and energy applied to physical objects would be deadly. The advent and spread of 3D printers allows those with ideas of better manufactured objects to experiment and invent those actual better things. As I noted at the beginning of the year:
The synthesis of customer expectations that do not need to be compromised along with the artisan instinct to not have to compromise could spark a creative and entrepreneurial blossoming such as we have not seen.
It’s coding real life. As a special report on manufacturing and innovation in the Economist says, the result of this will make it more attractive to keep manufacturing in the US:
As manufacturing goes digital, a third great change is now gathering pace. It will allow things to be made economically in much smaller numbers, more flexibly and with a much lower input of labour, thanks to new materials, completely new processes such as 3D printing, easy-to-use robots and new collaborative manufacturing services available online. The wheel is almost coming full circle, turning away from mass manufacturing and towards much more individualised production. And that in turn could bring some of the jobs back to rich countries that long ago lost them to the emerging world.