I'm trying to create a budget for producing a small electronic device that I've developed. I'm wondering if there is a template I could use or someone could link me to an article I could utilize to make sure I factor in all costs involved. The main unknown for me is the cost of the enclosure. I was thinking of having it produced in China and wanted to compare an order of 1,000 vs. say 10,000.

The enclosure design and size is somewhat similar to the Memoto camera although it would also have a door to replace batteries:


What I have so far for production:

  • Components - I used Digikey for this
  • Enclosure - Unsure what an enclosure like the Memoto would cost per unit?
  • Assembly - I have read roughly $3 per unit for a one layer PCB with 30 components?
  • Packaging - Bare box and bubble wrap
  • Shipping from China to fulfillment depot in US - crate costs? How many would fit on a crate?
  • Testing? Or is this included in assembly?

Offset against investment costs:

  • R&D
  • Plastic Mould - I have read $10,000?
  • Assembly machine setup costs?

I'm not looking for someone to hand me all the answers but if you could point me in the right direction it would be a great help.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ It depends on the process & materials, but it doesn't seem to me that a single mold would cost $10000. You could probably make the mold yourself with a CNC machine. Or if it's more complex, you could print the mold on a 3d printer (one that can work with metals). You could even use a cheap 3d printer to print the shape (not the mold) in plastic, polish it, and then cast that with some stronger material and split it open. \$\endgroup\$ – Ponkadoodle Jun 26 '14 at 0:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ For prototypes, you can use a 3d printing process, however for mass production you are going to need two molds to be made, one for the top and one for the bottom. Here is a calculator where you can estimate the tooling and production costs for different quantities of product. Factoring both material and NRE costs, a small case may cost $1 for 100,000 units, $2.50 for 10,000 units, and $10 for 1000 units. \$\endgroup\$ – tcrosley Jun 26 '14 at 0:51

Frankly, an offshore production supply chain is best taken on by somebody who has an established track record with it. You could lose your shirt. Find yourself a domestic middle man with plenty of proven reliable offshore contacts.

One option would be to get things running domestically. Make sure your molds belong to you- which is not always the case- and when you know its right, send your molds offshore for injection. A small single pull mold suitable for smallish runs will run about $1500 in the US, but costs go up fairly quickly for more complicated stuff. I also suggest looking toward enclosure manufacturers, who can often provide OEM arrangements for semi custom stuff at reasonable rates because they are appropriately tooled up for such things.

As for domestic PCB assembly, my domestic experience runs about six and a half cents per pad, even with some fine pitch thrown in, for one sided assembly. It will be more if there are mixed SMD and through hole parts. This is fully kitted, with you providing all the parts. There are also NREs. Offshore runs about one third of that or less. There are some middle men in Canada who people seem to like.


Depending on your personal time / time to market trade-off, you can DIY or outsource all the hassle to "local" company.

Local being where all the components and workers are, that is China, Taiwan, maybe India, Vietnam, etc.

I've done a project though Cantron which can handle everything and suitable for small/medium orders like yours, here's what I've learnt about China vs Taiwan:

China -- you pay for everything, but it's cheaper; makes sense at higher volumes; a little less reliable; even agreeable to cheat on customs forms (which I personally do not recommend).

Taiwan -- more western, you get a quote for free; much more responsible wrt. deadlines, finances; more professional; still quite cheap, but you do pay a certain overhead for their expertise. They can easily outsource "across the pond" i.e. to mainland if needed, their contacts are better than yours.

Wrt box: at 1k units you should probably go for silicone mold, it costs under a grand.

For 10k units, you'd want a better mold, but it's a good idea to make a test run first, although rework in China is quite cheap too.

Depending on how sturdy an enclosure you need, bent sheet metal is a good alternative, it's actually quite cheap and scales well from 1s to 1000s.


To have a quick overview of the total cost of bill of materials, you can import your BOM to Ciiva. It will search and compare the lowest price for the components of the BOM through global top 20 online distributors. And you can easily get different price estimation on any volume you put, e.g, 100, 1k, 10k ..

Of course, it only gives you a rough estimation of the component cost of BOM. So you can better prepare yourself when checking with China's EMS provider. Based on my experience, it's difficult to bargain with them if your volume is not that big, e.g below 10k.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.