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Why China is Leading the Way in Product Prototyping

It’s no secret that China has become the dominant manufacturing force in the world, but many people still don’t realize how far this dominance reaches and what it can mean for your business. Product prototyping, for example, is something we take for granted in America, but China has taken it to a whole new level with their affordable and precise methods of product prototyping. With this knowledge, you can feel confident in your company’s ability to produce high-quality products at the speed of light by using Chinese product prototyping services.

Low-Cost Labor

While labor is not cheap in China, it’s still cheaper than similar manufacturing centers like Japan and South Korea. Using more advanced equipment and more efficient production processes, Chinese manufacturers are able to make their products faster, cheaper, and of higher quality than anywhere else on Earth. This allows them to price their services much lower than other countries. These efficiencies come from better use of technology (like robotics) and closer monitoring of labor schedules to minimize downtime (i.e., workers on breaks). The combination of these factors—lower costs from efficiency improvements plus lower wages—means that Chinese manufacturers can provide more products at a lower cost than anywhere else in the world.

One-Stop Shopping

You can get everything you need to prototype a product in one place. Many Chinese prototyping shops have engineers, graphic designers, 3D printers and injection molders on staff; once you sign up for a package deal, they’ll coordinate all aspects of your project from start to finish. This allows startup founders to do more with less. Even better: there are increasingly specialized prototyping companies that provide rapid manufacturing services for startups tackling a specific industry vertical.

For example, if you’re building a medical device, it makes sense to partner with a manufacturer that specializes in medical device design and manufacturing. These firms know exactly what’s required by regulatory agencies such as FDA so your team doesn’t have to worry about those details. Startups working on hardware projects should definitely consider partnering with these specialists early on in their development cycle.

Fast Delivery

Inexpensive prototyping and large-scale manufacturing allow product developers to innovate at an unprecedented pace. Chinese factories offer lower costs, shorter lead times, and larger production volumes than other countries. Companies like Apple have established relationships with Chinese manufacturers for over a decade. Today, nearly all of Apple’s products are manufactured in China—including final assembly for some parts (e.g., cables and batteries). While there are many factors that come into play when deciding where to locate production, high speed of prototype delivery has become increasingly important as consumers demand better turnaround times on pre-orders.

Preloaded Technology

Chinese manufacturers have preloaded their 3D printers with software to make them easier to use. They’ve also preloaded their engineers with more industry experience, as they tend to hire skilled workers who are versed in traditional manufacturing and creating similar products—or at least work with experts who are. Given the size of the population, the talent pool in China is nothing comparable to other countries. Such a huge gap can be difficult to close.

Culture of Innovation

The Chinese are traditionally known for copying or outright stealing Western technologies. But that’s all changing as China transitions into a technological powerhouse on its own right. Beijing’s top leaders have started to believe that innovation, not imitation, can help to solve some of their country’s problems and create new industries as well. They know that innovation can lead to economic growth and more jobs; over 700 universities across China have integrated innovation into their names, signifying an emphasis on education for research and development (R&D). Just a few years ago, these schools were focused on training engineers by rote—and churning out products manufactured elsewhere.

Local Tech Hubs

One reason why Chinese entrepreneurs are able to prototype at an impressive rate is because many Chinese startups utilize local tech hubs. These facilities allow a company to rent office space, equipment, and more – eliminating expensive overhead costs while also fostering a sense of community and support. Silicon Valley may have its perks, but when it comes to product prototyping, being closer to industry experts and resources might be just as important as proximity to large financial markets. For example, take Shenzhen’s Huaqiangbei Market for Electronics Components. This massive market features almost every kind of electronic component imaginable, from processors to motors and sensors to circuit boards. It’s like an entrepreneur’s paradise! There’s no need for a startup engineer or product designer to go through a distributor or manufacturer if they can just walk down Huaqiangbei Street instead! But there’s another benefit that makes Huaqiangbei so attractive: information sharing.

Shield Works has over 16 years of product prototyping in China and our n-house engineering team is both well-seasoned and bilingual. If interested, please feel free to contact us!