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An Internet Broker Service for Low Quantity Custom Machined Parts

The internet will drastically change the nature of commerce during the next decade. Although most of the development to date has either been in the area of "business to consumer" (e.g. or "consumer to consumer" (e.g. ebay), it is believed by many that the "business to business" arena represents the area of greatest future growth. Some examples of current business to business brokers are:

The focus of this project is to research the development of an internet based broker for the matching of buyers and sellers of low quantity, custom machined parts; such as those typically produced by job shops using standard three axis CNC milling machines. Currently, it is estimated that there are 14,000 job shops in the U.S., generating around $25 billion in annual revenues. These businesses are generally small (fewer than 30 employees) and usually located geographically close to their customers. The most commonly used mode of communication is a set of blueprints; i.e. dimensioned and toleranced orthographic views of the part that is to be machined. The parts are often produced in quantities of just one and rarely greater than one hundred. Depending on the complexity, the typical cost per part can range from one hundred to several thousand dollars. The part may be a single piece or it may be part of an assembly of several parts; all of which will be produced and assembled by the supplier. The buyers may be other small businesses, research labs or divisions of large corporations, who for reasons of speed and economy choose to "outsource" components rather than build them "in-house."

There are two existing websites that are offering a similar service. One that attempts to match buyers and sellers is:

A second one that just came on-line in Feb. 2000 is:

The National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) has a searchable database which allows buyers to find machine shops that can bid on jobs. They also have some interesting guidelines about the proper etiquette in the bidding process for buyers and sellers.

Recent Publication

Robert B. Jerard and Okhyun Ryou, "Internet Based Fabrication of Discrete Mechanical Parts," Proceedings of the 2000 NSF Design & Manufacturing Research Conference, Jan 3-6, 2000, Vancouver, British Columbia. (paper in pdf format)