Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Shenzhen and Chicago: Hi-Tech Hotbeds
Jacob Fattal, Publisher

Shenzhen, China, was at one time a small market town of 30,000 inhabitants; its meteoric growth began when the city was named China's first Special Economic Zone in 1980. Nestled in the Pearl River Delta region, the city has become a global center for manufacturing with a population of almost 11 million and now hosts the annual the NEPCON South China exhibition.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Shenzhen was one of the fastest growing cities in the world, its development spurred by the Chinese government's "reform and opening" policy. Huge amounts of money have been invested in the region — over $30 billion from foreign sources. Such an influx of capital has given the appearance of the city springing up almost overnight.

This rapid expansion has allowed the NEPCON South China exhibition to remain a staple of the electronics manufacturing industry's annual trade show cycle for many years. This year, hot topics including the future of manufacturing and the smart factory, advances in microassembly technology, touchscreen displays, service-oriented robotics, and wearable tech will be showcased in on-site forums.

After the Shenzhen expo, U.S. Tech heads for SMTA International in Rosemont, Illinois. The Chicago area has long been a manufacturing hub, with a 100 year reputation as a driver for U.S. manufacturing. It is certainly a mark of distinction that the SMTA has found a permanent home for its annual show in Rosemont. Recently, the city has expanded its high-tech research and production capabilities by opening its Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII) on Goose Island, located in the middle of the Chicago River. The 94,000 square foot institute was funded in collaboration by private companies and the federal government, and was finished last year to develop and test new technologies in order to develop efficient manufacturing.

The institute has the potential to create a wealth of lean, smart manufacturing in the area. Goose Island is undergoing repurposing of old factory and production plants, updating facilities to become a part of today's advanced technology. Reshoring is alive and well in Chicagoland, still another once powerful industrial area that is making a strong comeback.  

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