In custom manufacturing - whether for machined parts from eMachineShop, printed brochures from a printer or stuffed teddy bears, setup costs are often the main factor in the price when ordering just one or a few parts. This is why custom manufacturing costs more than off-the-shelf products. For example if you design a threaded bolt and want to order one or a few pieces don't expect to pay what you would pay for a stock item at a hardware store. The reason is that a custom manufacturer has to go through several steps whether you order one or many parts. For example, even for quantity one of a simple part here are some the steps eMachineShop might go thru for an order: review the order; locate material in stock or order material; program the machine; setup cutting tools; setup a way to hold material during cutting; test run the program; run the parts; perform initial inspection; debur the edges; clean the parts; perform final inspection; pack and ship and log the shipment on the database. Nevertheless, eMachineShop strives to keep setup costs as low as practical and is usually competitive compared to other custom manufacturers even at quantity one.
A threaded bolt from a hardware store that costs $1 will cost far more when custom manufactured at low quantity. This is because most parts sold in stores are made in large quantities which spreads the setup and tooling costs over the large quantity. And parts sold in stores are often made using a process different from what is used for small quantity custom runs. For example, a 6" copper pipe that costs $5 in a store is likely made by extrusion, whereas a custom pipe made in low quantity more likely would be machined. Machining is less expensive than extrusion at low quantity. Similarly, many retail parts are made by injection molding which is also more economical than machining but only at large quantities. Parts that are machined at low quantity are usually made from a solid block of material. So, even if the amount of material in the finished part is minimal, much material is used in the process. Both the cost of the block of material and the time to remove the unused material add to the cost.
Do I pay for setup on reorders?
It depends on the type of job. For example, the tooling for an injection molding job is paid for only on the first order. But for a process that does not require hard tooling, the machine has to be setup again for a reorder although the setup cost is relatively low. The price given by the software automatically accounts for this.