Minimum quantity requirement

Can we make just one or a few pieces of a custom design? Yes and no. Yes for prototype or individual sculpture; no for mass production. The difference is unit cost; in general, larger quantity would help lower unit cost, or vise versa. So before we discuss further, here are couple advices:

  1. you shouldn't expect beating the prices sold in Wal-Mart or Toy R Us if you are not doing the same volume as they do
  2. to compete or to survive, you should think of more viable plan which differentiates your product from others; for example, aiming premium, features, or value, instead of merely relying on low price

Prototype or custom sculpture can be sculpted by human or rapid prototyping machine. Neither is cheap, meaning you shouldn't compare it to the work of average worker on the production line.


Production starts from prototype, which is also called "masterpiece", because it is the seed-mode for processing the tooling (molds). Given the affordability of silicone mold, prototype is usually made of resin material, which is good for demo, but may not be as functional as final product.


Individual sculpture is just like prototype, so is equally welcome. Check on this page for details about individual sculpting.


Unlike prototyping, the main purpose of production is to achieve the economical benefits; which, for client, means competitive price and quality, while for manufacturer, it means efficiency. To do that, you need to have the quantity. Take plastic product as an example, you have to have the volume to justify fixed costs on molds, setup, and machine time.


As we discuss in "Shipping and handling", on the other hand, quantity will help offseting fixed expenses in shipping and handling as well. Regardless volume, in fact, there are per transaction charges in handling both export (from China) and import (to US); service charges can range from a few hundreds to more than a thousand dollars, which can easily add up the unit price if quantity is small.


With that in mind, following are references for minimum production quantity requirement, noting higher numbers for plastic products due to their expensive molds and productivity:

Resin products: 

  • product size 3"-6": 3,024 pieces
  • product size 6"-8": 2,016 pieces
  • product size 8"-12": 1,008 pieces

Plastic products:

  • product size 3"-6": 5,000 pieces
  • product size 6"-8": 3,024 pieces
  • product size 8"-12": 2,016 pieces