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Made in America: Why Motorola is making smartphones in America again

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Manufacturing is returning to the US

Manufacturers are starting to understand the reasons to bring manufacturing back from overseas.  US consumers care about where their products are made.  Wages are on the rise overseas, but remain stable in the US.  Better products result from tighter turnaround time between design and engineering teams.

Motorola recently announced that their new flagship smartphone, designed to compete with the iPhone 5S and Galaxy lines, will have final assembly done in a Texas factory.

Other companies are following suit.

Motorola’s Announcement for the MotoX

Motorola’s Moto-X smartphone has recently come out to critical acclaim.  It is a high end smartphone comparable to Apple’s new iPhone 5S.  (See CNET’s comparison of the MotoX versus iPhone 5S.)

The Verge recently published an article on the manufacture of the new phone, designed to complete with the Galaxy and iPhone lines.  (See “Made in America: A look inside Motorola’s Moto X factory“.)  In it, they talk about how Motorola rebuilt an old Nokia factory in order to perform final assembly of their top-of-the-line smartphone in Texas.

From The Verge:

[The MotoX is] going to be built in Texas, in a 480,000-square-foot facility previously used to manufacture Nokia phones. Woodside says Moto X will be the first smartphone built in the United States, and was clearly proud of that fact

 

Some of the reasons cited for US manufacture:

  • Quicker turnaround time (faster fulfillment)
  • Direct fulfillment for customized, made-to-order relationships (better customization)
  • The proximity of the design and manufacturing engineers enables the design team to make tweaks to the phone and quickly push them into production (tighter loop between design and manufacturing teams)

 

Further, the Motorola CEO explicitly mentioned the following business reasons for moving manufacturing:

There is a premium [with building in the US] but it’s not material to the economics of the business. It’s a myth that you can’t bring manufacturing here because it’s too expensive… We’ve observed that wages in Asia are going up, wages here are relatively steady, consumers care more about where their products are being built, and you have advantages of having design close to your manufacture. Those advantages will well outweigh the costs that we have today and those costs will go down over time.

 

The rush to manufacture overseas was primarily driven by the bottom line, which was a product of a lower standard of living in poorer countries.  Lower labor costs and fewer regulations meant companies saved huge sums of money by moving all manufacturing to China, Korea, and other centers of manufacture.

Now, however, some manufacturing is coming back.   Cheap toys will continue to be made abroad, but innovative, high quality manufacturing is returning.  And it will bring high quality manufacturing jobs back with it.

How 3D Printing Will Generate Business for Production Manufacturers

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Over at Innovation Investment Journal, Peter Friedman has an excellent article identifying the large scale manufacturing shortcomings of additive 3D printing.  In short, he says that 3D printing can’t handle the speed or volume requirements needed in production scale manufacturing.

However, that conclusion misses the point for small and medium manufacturers.  The importance of 3D additive printers is not that they will replace large scale manufacturing (after all, they can’t take advantage of economies of scale).  Their role is to enable innovators and entrepreneurs to more deeply explore commercial viability.

Inexpensive 3d printing will enable hobbyists and amateurs to cheaply prototype their concepts at a scale that they can sell.  This scale (1-500+ units) isn’t well served by existing manufacturers, who have large minimum order requirements and/or high start up costs.

The next generation of innovative products will be created by designers who can prototype and build manufacturable goods in prototype and small quantities.

 

The blue area on the graph indicates where 3D printing provides significant value

The blue area on the graph indicates where 3D printing provides significant value

The blue area on the graph indicates where 3D printing provides significant value

New products will emerge from a cottage industry of innovation.  Once economic viability is demonstrated, these projects will need to transition to professional manufacturing, to take advantage of economies of scale.  Manufacturers who specialize in transitioning a product from additive 3d printing (10-500 units) to large scale manufacturing (1k+ units) will have partners in large growth phases.

 

Takeaway points:

  1. Role of 3d printers is to enable innovators and entrepreneurs to more deeply explore the commercial viability of their market and product.
  2. Inexpensive 3d printing will enable hobbyists and amateurs to cheaply prototype their concepts at a scale that they can sell
  3. The next generation of innovative products will be created by designers who can prototype and build manufacturable goods in prototype and small quantities.
  4. Manufacturers who specialize in transitioning a product from additive 3d printing (10-500 units) to large scale manufacturing (1k+ units) will have partners in large growth phases.

 * (I defined “proof of concept” at 1 unit, non-manufactured, non-sellable.  Sellable prototype is one that could be build in quantities of 10-1000.  Production scale is over 1,000 units.  Costs are estimated, although the actual numbers are less important than the shape of the graph.)

New Site Design for Flair Electronics

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We are excited to announce a new business partner and web-design client in Flair Electronics! Take a look at the new site, and let us know what you think.

Flair Electronics Security Systems

Flair Electronics was founded in 1967 and has worked in the security market since its inception, specializing in Magnetic Contacts, Graphic Annunciators and Perimeter Security Systems for many Residential, Commercial, and High Security Applications.

Also be sure to check out their redesigned and easy to access Download Center containing hundreds of Product Datasheets, Instruction Manuals, Technical Papers, and more.

In the coming months we will also be working with Flair on various other business development projects, including email marketing and lead generation through our new engineering research tool, Industry Cortex.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at info@industrialinterface.com to inquire about our Web Design, Advertising, and Consulting services.  We look forward to hearing from you!

The next generation of industrial research tool has arrived.

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We’ve just launched our new research tool for the manufacturing industry.  It’s called Industry Cortex.

Right now we’re testing it with information on 2,500 adhesive suppliers, their products, services, datasheets, images, and more.  Check it out and leave us some feedback in the comments.  Thanks for all the support from the suppliers, manufacturers, trade groups, and industry professionals that have helped us take this next step.

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Bond and EMI Shield with same part, FASTELek, an engineering case study from Fastel Adhesives

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Editors note: This is a Case Study from our partner supplier Fastel Adhesives, and here is their Industrial Interface Supplier Profile.  Learn more about Fastel’s FASTELEK Materials.

1) How do you bond a housing together and create an EMI/RFI Shield?

EMI Shielding is a very complex subject with a lot of considerations. Whenever you are evaluating an EMI shield you need to think about galvanic reactions, frequencies you are shielding, costs, and additional functions of the EMI shielding gasket. An engineer working on a wireless transceiver contacted Fastel looking to create an EMI shielding gasket in a complex geometry.

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Printing on heat sealable foils – Engineering case study from Entrocomponent Solutions

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Editors note: This is a Case Study from our partner supplier Entrocomponent Solutions, and here is their sales team: Jeff Bradbury and Scott McGlasson.

1.  How to print a logo and product name on a sealing foil

Many medical device companies use heat sealed foils to contain caustic substances or to maintain a seal of freshness. The functional side of these seals requires them to be inert and seal to plastics at a certain temperature. The other side of these foils is what is viewable to the end-user. This material often has a blank metallic look to it.  Our customer approached ECS with the desire to print instructions and product branding information on this part of the heat sealable foil.

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Engineer creates own heart valve to save his life

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In 2000, Tal Golesworthy, a British engineer, was told that he suffers from Marfan syndrome, a disorder of the connective tissue that often causes rupturing of the aorta. The only solution then available was the pairing of a mechanical valve and a highly risky blood thinner. To an engineer like Golesworthy, that just wasn’t good enough. So he constructed his own implant that does the job better than the existing solution–and became the first patient to try it.

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What are all the components of an LCD screen?

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custom lcd screen

Great site from All Shore Industries, a designer and manufacturer of custom lcd screens. They run through all the layers of LCD screens and provide interesting information. Great resource for anyone working with screens.