Building a one-off hack is fun. But what happens when people like your hack so much they want to buy it? As many of us have discovered, going from prototype to product can be a frustrating, tedious, and often expensive process. [Nick] at Arachnid labs has documented the process of manufacturing a custom heatsink in China.
While designing the Re:Load Pro, [Nick] discovered that there were no enclosures with integrated heatsinks which suited his application. Rather than design an entire case from scratch, [Nick] used an aluminum extrusion. This is a common technique in the electronics world, and literally thousands of extrusion profiles are available. The problem was the heatsink. Only a custom part would fit the bill, so [Nick] created a CAD drawing detailing his design. Much like the case, the heatsink was an aluminum extrusion. The custom nature of the heatsink meant that [Nick] would need to pay mold/tooling costs as well as satisfy minimum orders.
[Nick] headed off to Alibaba.com and requested quotes from several custom extrusion houses. He received tooling quotes between $500 USD and $1300 USD. Price per unit ranged from $1.85 USD each to $3.50 USD in quantity. The tooling costs are non refundable, so it really pays to get the design right the first time.
[Nick] ended up picking a manufacturer on the lower end of the price spectrum, but not the lowest bidder. Before he placed his order, he asked the manufacturer to send him their own drawing of the heatsink. This may sound like double work, but it’s an extremely important step to verify that the manufacturer completely understands the design.
When everything looked good, [Nick] placed his order and waited for samples. The waiting was the hardest part. Thanks to the Chinese New Year it was over a month before [Nick's] sample parts arrived. The samples looked great, so [Nick] is ready to go into full-scale production of the Re:Load Pro heatsinks.