1.How does STAR compare to western suppliers on price?
This is a complex question. China’s greatest advantage is its labour cost. Comparing Zhongshan City with the USA as an average, workers’ pay is approximately 1/6th. Imported technology however can cost as much as double the USA/Europe. Electricity in China is on par with some of the highest prices in the US and Europe. Imported materials can be much higher, but domestically produced much lower.
As a general rule, labour rich work is considerably more competitive than technology and material rich work. But this is not always true.
SLA & SLS is not competitive from China unless you start to do full cosmetic finishing to the raw SL/SLS model. Then it can be about 66% of the western prices.
Vacuum Casting of PU is typically about 50% of western prices. The expensive content here is the imported Axson resin. That said, vacuum casting and the subsequent finishing is very labour intensive.
Rapid Tooling for Plastics is almost always half the US/European price.
Pressure Die manufacture and Die Casting of aluminium and zinc can be as little as 25% of the western prices, but certainly 50%. This is an uncut gem in the Star-Prototype portfolio. There is no way of shortcutting the process of pressure die casting. There are no ‘rapid’ ways of producing die cast tools as the process is far too violent for soft materials. They must be HRC 43 to 48 H13 toolsteel.
2.How does STAR compare to other Chinese suppliers on price?
STAR is typically 50 to 100% more than other Chinese suppliers. This is because we employ the very best skilled workers, exceptional English speaking graduates, imported materials, and high-technology equipment. STAR aims to deliver a service and quality that is far superior to other Chinese suppliers. In that respect: quality is priceless.
3.How do delivery times compare to the ‘west’?
On a ‘apples for apples’ basis, STAR delivers in a similar time-frame to western suppliers.
For raw SL & SLS parts we take typically 2 days plus 3 days shipment. In the USA there is overnight shipping. We cannot do that.
4.I can get ‘rapid injection molded’ parts in days in the USA and Europe?
Yes, you can. Rapid Tooling for plastics is a service that appears to be slow in China when compared to some ‘rapid injection molding’ services. Some western ‘rapid tooling’ companies claim to take 1 day to produce molds and moldings – compare the same part with STAR at 2 weeks and you might question our speed. But there is a fundamental difference. The western suppliers that have a 1 to 7 days turnaround are not producing quality parts. These ‘rapid injection molded’ parts are poor quality and the designer often has to greatly modify his design to suit the suppliers processes. STAR can make most parts, no matter how complex, so long as they conform to normal international moulding rules. The customer owns the mold from STAR, which they do not from the ‘rapid injection molding’ guys, and the parts can be as complex as you like. In fact – the more challenging the better for STAR. You can also have any material you desire from STAR – even if we have to import it. Projects from STAR take typically 2 to 4 weeks. All of STAR’s moulds are made from tool steel and therefore last 50,000 plus cycles. All surface finishes are possible including chemical-photo etching. This takes time.
5.How do I know my design will be kept confidential?
Anyone that says that they can protect your Intellectual Property completely is a liar. In today’s Internet world it is impossible for mighty Governments even to keep anything secret. Even the likes of Apple are beaten to market by copy houses; even when there appears to have been no breach of security at all. How is that? Well, maybe some Apple guy leaves the latest iPhone on a beer hall table whilst he goes to the washroom. http://gizmodo.com/5520438/how-apple-lost-the-next-iphone Whoops. STAR will sign your NDA and we will seek to keep your IP secure – and we promise not to take your prototype to any German Beer Bars and leave them on the table for people to take home.
As and when your product is a financial success, you will be copied. In a way it is a test of commercial success. Unless you have huge financial resources to hire lawyers and chase infringers, there will be nothing you can do to stop them – even in the USA and Europe. The best advice anyone can get about staying ahead of the copy houses is to build a kick-ass Brand; wear the fastest running shoes in the product development arena; and always be one step ahead. By the time your competitors are copying you; you should have the next product in the market. That is why Apple comes out with so many new models and is so successful – they run faster.
6.Who owns STAR?
Star Prototype China Limited of Hong Kong is 100% owned by British Engineer Gordon Styles. The subsidiary factory Star Prototype Manufacturing is 100% owned by STAR HK and therefore owned 100% by Gordon Styles. There are no Chinese investors or shareholders.
7.How financially secure is STAR?
In 2011 STAR HK increased sales by 45% to USD 7m with a pre-tax net profit of USD 800,000. All machines and equipment have been paid out of cash. There is no debt in the business and cash hovers around USD 500,000. On top of this STAR is self-financing a working capital requirement of about USD 700,000. STAR’s balance sheet value at the end of 2011 was about USD 2.1m. Gordon Styles has a strict policy that the company must remain debt free and have approximately one month’s sales value as cash in the bank. Any funds above that can be spent on new equipment. STAR is a very financially secure business.
8.When can my company get credit with STAR?
Except in very exceptional circumstances, all new rapid prototyping customers must pay in advance for the first 3 orders after which we will consider giving 30 days credit. Except in very special cases, all tooling orders require 50% in advance, even for clients that have credit terms and typically the balance must be paid after T1 approval of samples. Terms are negotiable with each individual customer.
9.How can I pay STAR?
STAR accepts payment in two ways:
- a.You can pay by wire transfer bank-to-bank. STAR has accounts in Hong Kong and Zhongshan, China.
- b.STAR can send you a PayPal invoice and you can use your PayPal account or your credit card to pay.
10.What if we are not completely satisfied with the parts we receive?
If it is practical to do so, we will replace free of charge any parts that you are not completely satisfied with. If that is not practical, then we will credit the customer a negotiated sum. [Regarding T1 samples from tooling: T1 samples are never completely satisfactory, for example, T1 samples never carry the final finish as the customer often finds the need to modify the design and have tooling changes made.]
11.What tolerances can you achieve?
SL and SLS models are typically +/- 0.1mm in X&Y and +/-0.3mm in Z (XYZ as per the build orientation, not per your design orientation). This varies up or down for various geometries and sizes. If a customer needs a tight tolerance in a particular area, they can specify this in a 2D PDF and we will machine or finish the part to suit.
Vacuum casting of PU parts is firstly dependent upon the tolerance of the Master Model – see SL tolerances – then a tolerance of +/- 0.15% is applied as a general rule. This varies depending upon weak geometry. To ensure the accuracy of STAR PU parts, we usually machine a Tufnol fixture for post-heat-treatment. This ensures that the part does not shrink upon heat treatment.
Prototype Tooling for Plastics: Unless otherwise specified we comply with the DIN standard tolerances for plastic injection moldings. It is possible with careful thermal, time, and pressure control to have very accurate parts. We need to know you requirements in advance so that we can manage key features in the tooling and moulding process. As a general rule, you should never make more than one feature very accurate in the design. That feature can be repeated across the part; but to make a whole series of different features very accurate is impossible for any moulding company to achieve – you end up chasing your intolerances around the part. You get one feature right only to find another one creeps.
For Precision Machining the general tolerances are:
Please be feel free to contact us!