Sheet metal fabrication
Our sheet metal fabrication supplier will supply small quantities however their starting price to make a prototype is about $200 and goes up from there. The sheet metal is laser cut then bent on a press brake. The parts may have some rough edges and will not have any surface treatment. However if you request a manufacturing run, there are lots of added services. They can be tumble polished to remove sharp edges. Anodized in a variety of colors. And silkscreened with logos and other text like labeling. Here in China it seems that everybody uses CorelDRAW to make their vector graphics files. Inkscape seems to changed slightly when the supplier opens them in CorelDRAW. One of our customers send us a PDF of there vector graphics artwork, that seems to work well.
Plastic injection molding
Plastic injection molding is never a cheap option for manufacturing small quantities. However we have had prototype molds made and ordered 20 or more prototypes in the $3000 range.
Stickers, printed pamphlets, banners and business cards
For $20 you can get 1000 business cards full color on both sides. This is a great option to display your product information. Our supplier can make almost any kind of sticky you can think of. They can also do the very high-quality stickers used for control panels.
We purchased 1000 super awesome full color sticker of the Doomsday Clock Kit Circuit Board with a custom die to cut it's unique shape for $200. You can see it here.
We use the same company that makes all the extruded parts for the MakeBlock.
Thermal or vacuum forming
This is a really great way of forming plastic. If you look around on the Internet there are even ways to do it in your own home. This is a great solution for designs that need to be made in small quantities. The way this basically works is you have a shape that you want the plastic to form around. The plastic is heated until soft, then pulled around the shape with a vacuum. In the US I have found suppliers that will make the form out of wood with very low tooling costs. Here in China most of them are anticipating very high numbers to be manufactured so their forms are made of metal. So the upfront tooling costs may be a little bit higher here. Forms seem to start at about $1,100.
Latex and polyurethane molding
Both latex and polyurethane cure based on chemical reactions. Because of this you can make a very simple mold by CNC machining. Molds can be as low as $600. The part costs are a little bit higher than that of plastic injection molding. Because the material needs to be poured into the mold then they need to wait at least several minutes for the material to cure. Then the part is pulled off by hand. You can do a lot of cool things with polyurethane. You can control how stiff it is by adjusting its chemistry. Most of the shock absorbent cases for multimeters are made of polyurethane.
We have several suppliers for machining. We have not yet found that totally awesome supplier for machining small quantities of aluminum and steel.
However we do have a very good supplier of CNC machined plastic prototypes. They can make most of the kinds of things we would see coming out of a 3-D printer except much more accurate. Many of the big companies don't use 3-D printers, you cannot do real fit testing with 3-D printed parts. The dimensions are simply not accurate enough. This company will CNC plastic parts at high tolerances so you can see what they look like before you have a hard tool made for plastic injection molding.
We also have a really great supplier of custom screws. And they can manufacture lots of other things at about the same size.
If there's something you need to purchase in China, and you need our help to find it, we can potentially help you out. Just contact us to see how we can best meet your needs.
We have a really great supplier for manufacturing LEDs. They have a fairly healthy selection already. However if they don't have it they can often manufactured with a minimum order of only 1000. The supply time is typically two weeks.
This is the latest LED that we've made.
It's a 8mm LED with an internal WS2811 integrated circuit.
Instead of modulating the power through some external integrated circuit. For this LED you just send it power and data. The LED by itself will modulate its internal red green and blue LEDs to make the color you want.
It all started at Maker Fair in New York I was talking to Gene Foulk of HypnoCube.com
I was explaining that I have a lot of different manufacturing services through my website FactoryForAll.com including custom LEDs. Gene suggested that I make an LED with the WS2811 inside.
I decided to call them BulletPixels. However Paul of SolderingSunday.com primarily sells to children so he renamed them as PixelBits. Some people on line are calling it the WS2812D.
The BulletPixels internally are basically the same as the Neopixels by Adafruit Industries.
However the BulletPixels will fit into a breadboard and are much easier to hand solder.
Im selling them at my website SamuraiCircuits.com
I'm also happy to sell them wholesale to distributors.
Oh yeah, any other good ideas for an LED let me know!
Custom Designed Spring Manufacturing
We can also do stamping however it's pretty rare somebody has an order big enough to justify it.
We can help you put all your parts in bags and ship them to customers.
We work with a variety of shipping agents to get products to their destination.
We have assisted customers with everything from shipping full containers full of product to fulfillment of single a single item.
There is always a bit of a thrill when you get that container on the ship.