Originally Posted by Starovich
Plastic of some description either via milling or moulding.
Possible Aluminium though I think cost would be prohibitive.
For plastic machined parts these guys are fast but not necessarily as cheap as you can get: http://www.firstcut.eu/
-- if you can afford to wait 3 weeks rather than 3 days then usually a local supplier will be cheaper but I'd look for someone used to dealing with "newcomers" unless you end up with a CAD guy who can help out (otherwise you'll end up not talking the same language).
If you want moulded parts, and they are (or can be made) simple to mould then their sister company www.protomold.co.uk
can also do good stuff quick, and then able to bang out low volume production runs. Their prices are typically cheaper than a local mold maker will quote, but ask around as we found one who had some spare time and not only produced a tool for less than protomold, but are still making "mid volume" production runs (2000+) three years later.
You might be surprised at the cost of aluminium parts too. If you want say 50 the same then the right place will actually not be too bad - and unless it wastes a huge amount of material Ali might not be that much more than the same part in ABS. If you want one offs then it will cost you eitherway - as its all in the set up time,
If relatively crude plastic parts would suffice (and they are relatively small) then someone at the reprap project (http://reprap.org/wiki/Main_Page
) (or the similar http://www.makerbot.com/
) may be able to rapid prototype them for you for minimal cost.
I have a Rib/Boat related business design, and am in need of someone who has knowledge/capabilities and experience in;
Product Design -Cad drawing
With regard Patent Searching its a nightmare! There are two main aspects (1) has anyone done this before (novelty) which you need to search the whole world, and not just the patent press! You can do some novelty searching yourself (but you will miss stuff), you can pay a patent attorney to do it (but expect to pay £500 or more unless its incredibly simple!), or once you file a patent you can pay for the patent office to do early examination for £250 (2) are you infringing any one else's valid patent. this requires some expertise (or at least experience) reading patents, and finding your way through the systems. if you are only planning to manufacture and sell in the UK you only need to worry about granted valid UK patents. Its almost impossible, and horrendously expensive to do exhaustive infringement searching. Your best bet is probably to see what else you can find, print them off and chat to a patent attorney about them.
gb.espace.net and patents.google.com will help but are not exhaustive.
Patent applications are (IIRC) free in the UK, BUT if you've never written a patent before what you write will almost certainly not be what a good patent written by a patent attorney would be. This means you will miss things, potentially limiting the value of your patent, and worse making it impossible to grant or enforce your patent. There's also a small risk you'll give away more than you need to. As a result almost everyone patenting seriously uses patent attorneys. Unfortunately they don't come cheap (though most will have an initial meeting free of charge). The cost of drafting and filing a standard, straightforward, UK application is in the ball park of £2000. Shop around and talk to a few though - as we've found that if we do most of the work ourselves (but we do have some experience writing and reading patents) we can sometimes talk them into a reduced fee for us providing a first draft.
The really bad bit is the initial filing fee is pretty insignificant compared to the lifetime cost, especially if we are talking multiple countries etc. There are reasons beyond simple cash return for filing patents (e.g. gives you something to trade if you do infringe someone (as I understand it this is why Apple, Nokia etc patent so much) / vanity / investors in your business may expect it (its not always the right option - but on a paper or mental checklist protectable IP matters!) / market perceptions etc). However purely on a cash basis - I would need to see a fairly convincing argument that we would get £100k of profit from any patent we filed, just to cover the filing, translation etc costs. If the potential turnover is only in the 100-200k region then ask yourself if its worth patenting - is anyone really going to copy it? if they did could you afford to enforce it anyway?
On the CAD design point of view. Then if you are working on a really tight budget it probably depends where you are in the development process and to what extent you want to model/design on screen to play around with options and configurations etc. If you already know what the prototypes will look like and it just needs drawing then (a) it should be cheap (b) you might not even need proper CAD - paper and pen might be enough to get a model made. If you are wanting to try various options / ideas without the expense of machining them (virtual prototypes) then you need someone with 3D CAD expertise, you'll be looking at something like £300-500 a day, and it will take longer than you think! A proper "design house" will want to make this into a project which I've almost never known cost less than £5k! I've had one man bands do some simple designs for less than a grand - turning a sketch into a model with drawings - but they won't be putting the same level of design (either thought or aesthetic) into it. We ended up buying our own CAD package because these "trivial" jobs soon rack up. Any serious work we still sub it out. However, a serious 3D modelling package (e.g. solidworks or pro/e) will cost you something like £5k. The learning curve is not trivial either. I did look at some cheapish packages but wasn't convinced they did what I actually wanted (e.g. ability to edit a model afterwards, ability to assemble two parts to check fit etc).
Hope that helps in some way!