I've been really lagging on my rack ends project, but I wanted to post a quick update.
A few months ago I posted drawings and a STEP file to MFG.com. MFG is a sourcing platform for manufactured parts of all types, with suppliers and buyers from around the world. When I was building robot doors, I used MFG to source probably $50k worth of parts, mostly from contract machine shops around the US - but also from mainland China. MFG is a great place to get a *lot* of quotes quickly, and I've developed a few long-term relationships with great suppliers from it.
My current project is a small one - there are certainly hundreds of job shops around the country who could handle it. I'm hoping to spend $2-3 per part in quantities in the 100s, though it remains to be seen whether that's possible.
I got about twenty quotes back, though I scratched a few outliers off the bat. The remaining sixteen are below. Note that the 1st quantity is for 1000, 2nd quantity is for 100.
As it happens, I've received samples from a few of the cheapest suppliers on this list... they were pretty rough, with a lot of hand-finishing (presumably to cover up low quality machining).
Note also that I requested all pricing to be DDP, which means that the supplier is supposed to include all duties and shipping to my doorstep. From my past experience, a lot of Chinese suppliers either don't understand or don't care to quote these terms, though a few of the quotes here actually specify EXW, meaning that the supplier boxes up the goods and then leaves the rest for me to take care of. For a box of stainless steel in Guangdong, the cost of shipping could easily add 25-50% to some of these cheaper quotes.
For a part like this one, I could probably pick one of the lower bids and go with it. The part is simple enough; the worst I would deal with would probably be a bit of slag on some of the drilled holes. I want to be careful about material selection, though - I need the part to be 304 stainless, and the risk of a supplier using a different grade is nontrivial.
The fun thing to do is to order the small quantity from one of the lowest bidders, and see how it turns out. For less than the cost of a used PS3, you can get a batch of parts that's probably ready to sell or use - *and* you might learn something interesting.
In reality, I'm more likely to buy the parts from a supplier I know (and found on MFG a few years ago). The quote I got from him was under $4 per, which is competitive with many of the Chinese suppliers here. He quotes EXW, but shipping UPS for these parts won't be more than $50. I would also follow up with all of the reasonable US firms here and see what their responsiveness was - especially if I can find someone local-ish.
This particular part is low priority right now, but I'll probably follow up on this early in January. Expect updates.