“Additive manufacturing” is the industrial version of what is referred to as “3D printing” at the personal or desktop level. It’s hitting the big time:
General Electric is making a radical departure from the way it has traditionally manufactured things. Its aviation division, the world’s largest supplier of jet engines, is preparing to produce a fuel nozzle for a new aircraft engine by printing the part with lasers rather than casting and welding the metal. The technique, known as additive manufacturing (because it builds an object by adding ultrathin layers of material one by one), could transform how GE designs and makes many of the complex parts that go into everything from gas turbines to ultrasound machines.
I don’t think that the adoption of additive manufacturing will do much for our employment situation (my main concern) but it will help our trade imbalance (a secondary concern) and that in turn may improve our employment situation at least a little.
This is what the Chinese really need to be concerned about: when intellectual property concerns, transportation costs, or just plain issues of control outweigh the very small benefits of China’s low wages for manufacturers. You can’t get any lower than zero and additive manufacturing is a big step in that direction.