For traditionally manufactured parts, MFG has a large enough supplier network that you almost always get a handful of good quotes. My rack end, for instance, went out to over a thousand suppliers. About 75 viewed the RFQ, and to date I've received 7 bids. Another dozen or so suppliers are apparently "preparing quotes."
When you shrink the pool down, though, the rates matter a lot more. There are a *lot* of swiss turning shops in the US, but very few that can produce DMLS titanium parts. So when I posted my seatmast topper, I tracked the results with a lot more interest.
The RFQ went out to 110 suppliers. 8 viewed it, and I have yet to receive a single quote.
Incidentally, there is at least one supplier on this list who did *not* view the RFQ but whom I found separately via Google.
The thing that really strikes me here is MFG's total incapacity to move my project forward - quotes or not. In optimal situations, MFG is an effective marketplace to compare quotes for manufactured parts. What it's not good at, however, is the broader function of connecting designers with manufacturers. Anything I want to learn about the DMLS process - information that inevitably is going to come directly from the engineers and operations managers that are quoting and building my parts - is totally missing from the MFG experience. Instead, I'm left to do leather-to-the-ground work the same way I always have: an afternoon spent with Google + a phone line.
There's definitely a place in the world for a manufacturing marketplace, but I'm pretty sure this could be better.
Regardless, I'm beginning to develop a few old-fashioned leads on good DMLS job shops, and I hope to have some real - and reasonable - pricing in the next few days.