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Chinese Moldmaking Industry

July 23, 2011

Filed under: manufacturing — Terry Wohlers @ 06:59

The April 2011 issue of European Tool & Mould Making magazine published an interesting article titled “Tool and Mould Making in China: Opportunities and Risks.” This industry reached $17 billion in 2010 and provided jobs to 500,000 people, according to the article. China exported molds and other tooling valued at $2.2 billion last year—19.2% more than the year before. Most (69%) of it was for molding plastic and rubber parts.

As many as 30,000 tooling and moldmaking companies are in business in China, according to the article, with 20 industrial parks dedicated exclusively to this industry. The revenue generated per employee is in the range $15,400 to $30,900. Few of the companies have achieved western standards, so most are not active outside the country. The article claims that slightly more than 100 of the companies (less than 1%) have reached a level of competence that is acceptable internationally.

The perception among some in the west is that China employs many highly-skilled workers at moldmaking companies. The article points out, however, that only 15% are considered technically-skilled employees. With this industry still in its infancy, companies are gaining experience as they work toward raising their standard level of quality. Meanwhile, the protection of intellectual property continues to be a problem that concerns potential customers outside the country.


July 9, 2011

Filed under: manufacturing,review — Terry Wohlers @ 11:01

A book titled Makers: All Kinds of People Making Amazing Things in Garages, Basements, and Backyards, was given to me recently as a gift. I probably would not have gotten it otherwise, only because I may not have discovered it on my own. The publisher, O’Reilly Media, is the creator of MAKE magazine and the popular Maker Faire, which is held in the San Francisco Bay area (which I attended in May), Toronto, Ann Arbor, Kansas City, Vancouver, Detroit, and New York. The book, magazine, and Maker Faire events are all about making stuff, mostly among do-it-yourselfers.

The 184-page hardbound Makers book features the work of 91 makers from around the world. What I found interesting was that no limits were placed on the types of creations presented in the book. Author Bob Parks, a former editor at Wired magazine, found some of the most interesting projects and designs one could ever imagine. An example is a hand-built, 12.5-meter (41-foot), 6.6-ton personal submarine. Another is an alarm clock that wakes from the smell of freshly-cooked bacon.

Sculptor and mathematician Bathsheba Grossman is one of the makers featured in the book. She uses additive manufacturing technology frequently to realize her extraordinary designs, often in metal. Parks made a point to include pictures of her work, including my favorite—the Quin.MGX lighting design from .MGX by Materialise. I proudly and prominently display this product in our home, as well as two other lamps made by additive manufacturing.

Other designs featured in the book include a dual-prop, pedal-powered canoe; a necktie-tying machine; an espresso machine disguised as a PC; a flamethrower made from plumbing pipe; a touch-screen electronic bartender; and a jet-powered go-kart. What do all of these things have in common? They were designed and built by individuals eager to express their creativity and inventiveness. I doubt very much that most of them were motivated by the potential of a marketable product or dollars from sales. They simply wanted to apply their ideas, talent, and time in a way that results in a possible first—a “thing” that no one else has ever produced.