I knew selecting the right manufacturer would be critical. Naively I started my search in the US. I came very close, but in the end, there was no US manufacturer that would take on the manufacture of TrustyTrunks, at any cost. I heard that my part was too big, and removal from the mold would be difficult. I considered forty-nine US\International companies and reached out to most of them. I learned that most US manufacturing of rubber and silicone parts services the auto and medical supply industries.
To locate overseas manufacturers, I made many inquiries, most of which led nowhere. However, I eventually located three manufacturers in Shenzhen, China on my own. One was a referral from a Denver, Colorado manufacturer, another found me at the ABC tradeshow, and the third was the result of a web search. All three of these companies provided competitive proposals and bids.
Another great referral was Molds & Tooling, a US based company that sources molds and manufacturing from multiple overseas factories. I learned of them this way; at my local Reynolds Advanced Materials shop, I asked about any local silicone manufacturers. They referred me to Adam at Denver 3D Print Co. Adam would have been great to meet eight months ago for CAD design and prototyping, but by this point, I have those procedures in place. However, it was worth the visit, as Adam introduced me to Richard Bradbury at Molds & Tooling.
Because Molds & Tooling is based in Denver, Richard was willing to meet me in person. He is very knowledgeable about manufacturing overseas, including important items such as tariffs and shipping. He has already vetted and worked with numerous manufacturers around the world. He obtained a competitive bid for me from a manufacturer in Guanzhou, China.
You may wonder, am I worried about potential tariff increases on products made in China. The answer is, yes. As of this writing, (Feb 2019) the tariff on TrustyTrunks is 3%. A rule of thumb is to add 10%-25% to the manufacturing cost to get to the landed cost. Tariffs and other costs will certainly be topics for additional posts as I learn more.
FYI, Shenzhen and Guangzhou are known for their manufacturing, helped by proximity to deep water ports and the financing capital of Hong Kong.
Gem of Wisdom: Ask everyone you meet if they have a referral for the services you need. If a company reaches out to you, you probably don’t need them. This realization is also worth considering when you are marketing.
Resources: A web search yielded this list of LSR (liquid silicone rubber) processors, which you might find helpful: