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Made in China: From One to Many

Sponsored by: Mouser Electronics

The “made in China” stereotype is changing. Outdated perceptions of Chinese manufacturing have given way to monumental leaps in both technology and innovation. This is in part due to China’s push for homegrown innovation-led design, fueled by the hackers, makers, and product designers of the country.

As more and more startups consider the advantages of working closely with their manufactures. It’s clear that China’s developments in supply chain integration, speed, and competitive pricing aren’t just for the major players in the industry. Everyone, from makers to startups, are joining in on China’s industrial revolution.

Supplyframe’s Majenta Strongheart poses for a photo with the Studio RYTE team in Hong Kong

It’s Time to Change Your Perspective

While the mainstream media has not been kind to products in the past stamped with the “made in China” tag, all of that is changing. For starters, China’s competitive prices do not indicate lower quality. On the contrary, China is home to the second, fourth, and fifth largest smartphone suppliers in the world.

More often than not, poor quality products from Chinese manufacturers are a result of poor communication or design, and not directly related to the capabilities of the country’s factories. In 2018, the electronic manufacturing sector surged upward by 13.1 percent in China, which was higher than that of the overall manufacturing industry.

Incredible growth, combined with a strong focus from the Chinese government on innovation as part of its “Made in China 2025” initiative are bringing exciting new developments to the surface.

At the heart of all this are China’s new ‘megacities’ like Shenzhen, these places are dedicated to extreme growth and opportunity.

The Scope of China’s Manufacturing Hubs

Both Hong Kong and Shenzhen have become major hubs for electronics manufacturing, makers, and cutting-edge innovation. While Shenzhen is often associated with electronics manufacturing giant Foxconn, the maker presence is no more evident than when you visit the Huaqiangbei market in Shenzhen.

Located just ten miles from Hong Kong, this market is an absolute paradise for makers, but it requires some local knowledge and planning to navigate as it’s quite large. Beyond the market, Shenzhen is also home to Seeed’s x.factory, a place that empowers “maker pros” with access to resources, supply chain connections, and the tools they need to scale their prototypes to production.

HAX, a venture capital-based program for accelerating hardware startups, has a major location in Shenzhen as well. The VC brings new startups to China to give them an edge in the form of unparalleled manufacturing speed that empowers them to match larger competitors in the industry. HAX promotes iteration and prototyping speed up to four times faster, thanks to immediate access to electronic markets in Huaqiangbei.

Founded in 2011, HAX offers unique opportunities for startups in both Shenzhen and San Francisco

Meanwhile, the community in nearby Hong Kong continues to grow as well. Dennis Cheung, founder of Hong Kong’s Studio RYTE, attributes this to having local access to a variety of manufacturers. Indeed, the proximity of Hong Kong to major factories and fab houses makes it incredibly simple to access the tools engineers and makers need.

The benefits also extend to investors and international businesses. Cesar Harada, the founder of Hong Kong’s largest hackerspace, Maker Bay, points to faster manufacturing and significantly lower prices as the main factors that attracted both him and his investors to set up in the city.

Majenta Strongheart (right) interviews Cesar Harada, founder of Maker Bay in Hong Kong

Perhaps one of the largest votes of confidence comes from the MIT Innovation Node in Hong Kong. This is the only annex outside of the university’s primary location in Massachusetts. A combination of government support, a focus on innovation, and access to the latest and greatest manufacturing technology make both Hong Kong and Shenzhen worthy of being called China’s Silicon Valley.

Shanghai Electronica

An excellent opportunity to see all of this firsthand is to attend Electronica China in Shanghai’s New International Expo Centre. Innovators gather here each year in March to showcase the latest and greatest in the world of electronics and manufacturing.

The Supplyframe booth at Electronica China 2019

Electronica China 2019 was another record-breaking year for the expo. Shanghai played host to 1,586 exhibitors from 24 countries. Supplyframe was indeed present with our own booth, and our team joined 92,695 professionals who attended the event.

With a 12.5 percent growth in exhibition space, it’s easy to see how this event is crucial for growing startups and those seeking the latest in innovation. Given this new perspective, we decided to launch The Hackaday Prize China this year. We cannot wait to see what game-changing projects these innovators bring to the table.

Watch more stories about innovation brought to you by Mouser Electronics.

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Discussing the business of hardware and hardware manufacturing.

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Bradley Ramsey

Bradley Ramsey

Technical Writer at Supplyframe. Lover of dogs and all things electronic.

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