Medical Wire Prototype Manufacturing Demystified

If a consumer wanted to buy a custom manufactured Apple iPhone they would need to call up the original manufacturer and they would expect to pay more than if they bought an iPhone off of the shelf.  Apple makes millions of phones identical and because of this they can charge less for a standard phone than if they needed to custom manufacture one. The same applies to manufacturing wires. Every day we quote out multiple projects for medical wire prototypes and small product runs. We have generic products on our site which end up being much more affordable then the prototype runs and it is difficult to explain this to customers so I wanted to demystify our pricing on projects and lead times.


With each new product comes new engineering challenges. We need to make sure we can get the product scheduled on our machinery in a timely fashion. We need to determine which tooling needs to be set up on the machinery to accurately achieve the desired specifications. Sometimes this planning is easy, other custom wire jobs can be quite challenging.

Raw Materials

When customers request non-common wire sizes and wire materials we need to order these materials from a raw wire materials manufacturer. The raw materials manufacturer will quote us anywhere from one week to six weeks of lead time for the materials. Minimum order sizes are typically between $250 and $500 for a minimum lot order. As an example, if you only want a prototype run of 5 pieces and the minimum wire cost is $250, you are starting at $50 per wire before we have done anything. Modern Grinding works our best to stock common wire sizes to avoid minimum wire order charges and lead times.

Specialized Tips and Threads

When customers request non-common tips or thread sizes, those wire profiles need to be programmed into a cnc program by an engineer which takes labor time and machine time. For special threads, the wheel needs to be dressed for the specific thread. A typical wheel dress takes about 15-30 minutes and takes material off of a $100-$800 dollar wheel. After the parts are made, they need to be measured by the machine operator and engineer to make sure that the specialized tips and threads are being achieved to specification.

Tolerance Specs

The tighter the tolerance, the higher the price of creating the product. Tighter tolerances require more spot checks which requires more labor hours. Tighter specs also lead to more scrapped parts which leads to higher costs. If you are not sure what tolerance specs you would like to achieve, ask your manufacturer what their typical tolerance specs are.


Almost every project we do has a different wire size then the last project. In order to switch projects it requires time to take down one project and set up the next project. Due to the typical precision of our products, this requires multiple tests to make sure everything is set up correctly. We need to re-position the grinding wheel, redress the grinding wheel and set up all of the feeder and exit tubes. Typically we quote out 3 hours worth of set up and take down time per project. Again, in the example of trying to make 5 parts, we spend 3 hours of operator and machine time before we even can make 1 product.

Cycle Time

Cycle time doesn’t come into play too often with small runs, but what it means is the amount of time needed to make one piece. If we are doing a large run of 10,000 wires, we can figure out how to automate the process such as having automated feed in and exits set up. If we are only doing 5 parts, we need to hand feed the product into the machine which takes more time per piece.

I hope this helped demystify our pricing philosophy slightly but don’t let it deter you, Our prototype pricing is competitive in the wire manufacturing market and our quality is second to none. Please give us a chance to quote out your next prototype project and see how passionate we are about wires.

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