What Exactly is Build to Print Manufacturing?

If your job is to, “Just get it made”, chances are you’re looking for a build to print manufacturer.

Build To Print

Build to Print typically defines the manufacturing of a product with an existing design.

Let’s talk about what you should expect from a build to print, and what your manufacturer will expect from you.

First things first, before you can build to print, you need a production drawing.

Back-of-the-napkin sketches are great for pitching an idea to your investor over lunch, but your manufacturer will need something more specific.  Depending on the materials being used and manufacturing processes required, chances are you will need an engineer to create detailed production drawings in a software like Solidworks.

Got drawings? Great!

Need drawings? Call your manufacturer and let them know where you are in the design process. Many times, there will be engineers on staff that can quickly and easily produce production drawings for you.  This is generally more time & cost efficient than hiring a third party engineering firm for the drawings. Another benefit of having your manufacturer help with the design is the added expertise they can offer.  A minimal adjustment to a measurement or simple material change can quickly increase yield and reduce costs.

Communicate your timeline and get a quote.

If you have investors waiting on a prototype and the clock is ticking, don’t be shy about those details. There is no magic number for how fast you can expect a quote, but if you’re in a pinch, let them know. They may be able to accommodate your schedule.

Also, if any adjustments have to be made to your drawing before production, be sure to get a copy of the altered drawings to sign off on.

Be honest about what’s important.

If your product has to be exactly 13.485″ wide to fit specific user requirements, but the height is negotiable, your manufacturer needs to know. You want to ask for suggestions on how to get the best yield from material without compromising quality. Be leery of any manufacturer who doesn’t seem to care about those details. They should be just as interested in maximizing efficiency as you are.

Maybe you chose the material because you saw it advertised or a friend suggested it.  If it isn’t a deal breaker, ask for alternatives.  Your manufacturer might have a lesser known suggestion that is less expensive and higher quality.

If they aren’t able to give you answers to those types of questions, you may be working with a distributor rather than the actual manufacturer.

Learn more about distributors in our blog, “How Much Extra Are You Paying for a Middle Man?”

Be flexible with quantities.

Ordering in even numbers like 100 or 20,000 may sound easy enough, but you may get price breaks at certain quantities based on material yield. For example, if you can get 4 enclosures out of one sheet of acrylic, it will be cheaper to order 32 than 30. Ask for best yield quantities.

Don’t be alarmed when you see something called NRE on your invoice.

Non-Recurring Engineering costs show up when your product requires machinery setup, molds, tooling, and/or engineering drawings. Sometimes those costs are charged separately and other times the manufacturer will amortize them over the per-piece cost.  Make sure to ask. If you plan to place subsequent orders, your per piece price may change significantly without that NRE.

Build-To-Print orders are the bread and butter for many manufacturers.  Unfortunately, many issues arise when a product is pushed quickly through production without sufficient communication. Whether your order is worth $2,000 or $20,000,000, choose a manufacturer you’re comfortable working with. Understand that the only way they can be successful is if you are successful.  Don’t be afraid to explain your concerns or design challenges ahead of time.  It will be worth the extra few dollars up front to adjust the design when you have a quality cost efficient product.

Still have questions about the Build-To-Print process? Give us a call. We help businesses every day answer key questions about manufacturing and design.


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