Prototypes?

Can anyone recommend online services that machine small quantity parts for prototypes? Most of my searches return large production industry
suppliers, when what I'm looking for is more along the lines of emachineshop.com. The latter has a pretty good range of materials and machining techniques, but they're still somewhat expensive and require you to use their incredibly buggy Windows-only CAD program that's horribly painful to use.
Any advice in general for someone looking for cheap and precise part machining?
Thanks, Chris S.
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You can do like most everyone has, buy a lathe, vertical mill, drill press, et cetera. They pay for themselves on the first few parts you make yourself. Custom machining for small quantities is not cheap anywhere. Cost is relative, one person thinks it's a good deal the another thinks it's expensive. www.lynxmotion.com does good one off or small quantity plastic parts. Of course if you think www.emachineshop.com is expensive, your in trouble. If you want a prototype part, it is going to be expensive anywhere, unless you can find someone nearby where you live with a lathe or milling machine that can help you out. Most of the small machine shops and custom fabrication shops are not online yet. You'll have to check the yellow pages. They'll require blueprints and or engineering drawings before they can quote you on the parts.

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Ditto what Earl sez. eMachineshop is probably well in line with standard pricing, if not a little low.
As prototype services are something of the nature of the local business, I think you're better off picking up a Yellow Pages. Searching globally for something you'll probably want to take care of locally will yield only frustration. You don't note the type of prototypes, but look under the obvious headings, such as Metal - Fabricators and Plastics - Fabricators. Most fabricators will do both prototype and production, and prices vary widely.
The local model airplane group may have one or two members who do machining on the side. Where amateur robot clubs are still fairly rare, just about every size town has a model airplane group.
Now for this comment: "looking for cheap and precise part machining." Precise machining makes it not cheap. That's why it's expensive. Even with CNC, there's a lot of setup involved. And as the average professional-grade CNC mill starts at maybe $20,000, the business has to pay for it somehow.
-- Gordon Author: Constructing Robot Bases (Now Avialable) Robot Builder's Sourcebook, Robot Builder's Bonanza
Chris S. wrote:

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A group of hobbyists and small-time machinists, many of us brought together by Yahoo Groups for TurboCNC, CAD_CAM_EDM_DRO, geckodrive, etc, have started a kind of hobby machinists network. A lot of these guys have retrofit or built CNC machines on the cheap.
The idea is that those who actually have a machine or two, and know how to run it, can do custom parts for other hobbyists. The pricing is up to the machinist; could be as low as free or for cost of materials and shipping.
The original group is "machined_hobbiest" on Yahoo Groups (started by someone else, I'm not responsible for the spelling). There is some activity on there, and you can post a request for parts and someone may contact you.
I also decided to learn MySQL and PHP, and started a website where machinists could post information about their workshop, and hobbyists could create job requests with drawings and photos or whatever. I got as far as completing the workshop creation section of the site, before I became unemployed to cut costs where I worked. I actually have the other portions of the site nearly done, just a little more work and all the features will go live. At least right now, there are about a dozen shops people have posted, and you can view their capabilities, machines, and possibly some of their work, and contact them about whatever you want to build. http://hwn.macetech.com is the link. Hopefully in a couple days here, I will find the time to finish the site...job hunting is a little more important right now.
Does a site like this seem like it would be useful to roboticists here? The services aren't limited to just mechanical stuff...maybe someone with a PCB setup could use the site to line up work. The end result should be a place where any hobbyist can find someone to do work that's outside of their current experience. Get your PCBs made, have a couple custom plastic parts cut, send off some aluminum parts to your favorite hobbyist with a homebrew anodizing setup. No need to deal with the professional shops who are used to bidding with multi-million-dollar companies.
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    --Post to rec.crafts.metalworking; it's where all the small shop geeks (like me) hang out.
--
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Hacking the Trailing Edge! : when does the money come?
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