Have you ever opened an online order only to realize something’s off about it?
Sometimes what you read online simply doesn’t match reality. Whether it be buying something on Amazon, or buying supplies for your business, you need your suppliers’ words to match their actions.
As a product manufacturer who outsources materials, Strouse has over three decades of experience working alongside suppliers. Having worked closely with over a hundred vendors, we revisit the best ones because they provide good quality, flexibility, and communication.
To make your product successful, you’ll want to ensure the quality of the components. By the end of this article, you’ll see which aspects to consider in a new supplier, along with a list of our all-time favorites so that you have a better understanding of who we use and why.
If you’re just getting started or looking for a new vendor of flexible material, you might need help figuring out where to start. To give you an idea of who we use, we’ll list seven of the best flexible material suppliers for manufacturers.
This list is in no particular order. Each material supplier below specializes in their own materials, where prices may vary, but this list is intended to provide you with a starting point for finding a material supplier that suits your needs.
We’ve been using 3M for nearly thirty years, and our reps have consistently addressed our requests, questions, concerns, and samples.
3M is a large company, but they still allow some pricing flexibility with big potential jobs. However, their most significant leg up on the competition is the access to information and samples.
Through 3M, we can access pricing and data sheets on their website and customer portal. They also have a vast range of products and high product quality.
WHAT IS 3M KNOWN FOR?
3M have a wide selection of different flexible materials, including adhesives, abrasives, laminates, films, medical products, and more.
Our reps at Mactac are also consistent and quick to address our requests, questions, etc. They also offer decent pricing flexibility for big potential jobs, not to mention competitive pricing.
Mactac’s extremely competitive pricing and flexibility are their greatest assets.
WHAT IS MACTAC KNOWN FOR?
Mactac is a source of industrial tapes, medical adhesives, films, and other pressure sensitive products.
#3: Fox River Associates
Fox River Associates offers very competitive pricing. In addition, they are generally flexible with minimum order quantities for startup developments and pricing based on volumes.
Regarding product, Fox River offers many high-quality options and is always willing to provide samples of said material.
WHAT IS FOX RIVER ASSOCIATES KNOWN FOR?
Fox River Associates are primarily known for their siliconized paper and film release liners.
The biggest pro of working with 3-Sigma is their flexibility.
3-Sigma is a key partner for us when we can’t find what we need out in the market for custom products. They have a quick turnaround time for custom products and some flexibility when it comes to material order quantity.
WHAT IS 3-SIGMA KNOWN FOR?
3-Sigma supply release liners, transfer tape, single and double sided tape, and more.
#5: Channeled Resources Group
Channeled Resources are a highly dependable supplier with impeccable quality. They are one of our main suppliers of adhesive liners, and in all the years we’ve used them, it’s nigh impossible for anyone to recall any issues.
Their flexibility when offering our orders in different formats or adjusting the MOQ is always both impressive and highly appreciated.
WHAT IS CHANNELED RESOURCES KNOWN FOR?
Channeled Resources are known for their release liner and pressure sensitive roll label stock.
Polymershapes are very flexible and have a large range of products. Their pricing is also very competitive, and their communication is consistently excellent.
WHAT IS POLYMERSHAPES KNOWN FOR?
Polymershapes primarily make plastic sheets and film, as well as a number of other foam and aluminum products
Rubberlite is a fantastic source for one of the more challenging material categories to source (foam). Rubberlite is relatively flexible with MOQs and pricing, readily provides samples, and communicates well.
WHAT IS RUBBERLITE KNOWN FOR?
Rubberlite is a source of many products, from blended neoprene to cross-linked polyethylene. They also supply pressure sensitive adhesives and fabrics.
What Makes a Good Flexible Material Supplier?
Many flexible material suppliers achieve one or two positive traits, but to be considered successful and trustworthy, they need to possess the following 4 capabilities:
1. GOOD COMMUNICATION
This is a broad topic to tackle, but what we mean by communication is being responsive, transparent, keeping you informed, and listening to your feedback.
Responsiveness: If it takes up to five emails or phone calls to get their attention, you might assume they don’t find you important enough to provide the support you need to succeed.
Transparency: Many projects are time-sensitive, so you’ll need to know the estimated length of any delivery delays ASAP. It’s better to know if something major is happening so you can adjust accordingly to prevent delays.
Keeping us informed: If your business is like ours, mainly custom projects, you’ll want to know about new products and technology.
Listening to feedback: It’s great to hear when a company wants input, but how many surveys do you fill out before you give up? Working with a supplier who actively addresses past issues can feel like discovering an oasis amid a desert.
Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) Flexibility: Few large projects begin with order volumes that cover larger MOQs. At Strouse, we might start with an order for a little more than a handful of samples but not nearly enough parts to cover a log of material.
When we’re in the development or validation phase for a product, our customers are not usually willing to invest $10,000 into a material that may or may not work.
Our best suppliers understand this and are often willing to work with one-time small-volume orders by using other businesses they work with or simply understanding the risk vs. reward for high-potential projects.
Pricing Flexibility: Everybody’s out to run a profitable business, but just like with MOQ flexibility, slight concessions can make a long process go far more smoothly. At the very least, being open to this discussion is always a plus.
Information: Quick and easy access to information such as datasheets and pricing helps business move faster.
Samples: Quick and easy access to samples for preliminary testing or customer evaluation of laser samples is also critical for getting material spec’d into projects.
Product quality and consistency are CRITICAL. You’ll want “set it and forget it” products that will work the same for the first part as the last part.
How Do I Choose the Best Flexible Material Supplier?
You might have noticed we didn’t include ourselves on the list of who is the best above. However, once again, Strouse outsources material from suppliers to build custom parts.
Choosing the best flexible material supplier isn’t just about finding the best vendor overall but about identifying and matching your company's needs to the ideal suppliers for your job.
For example, have you considered the scale of your project? You’ll want to choose a reputable supplier with a longstanding reputation to ensure your material needs are consistently met throughout your project.
In our field, companies often go through their manufacturer to choose a supplier and purchase material because each one (including us) has its own business relationships with specific suppliers. This can lead to less-expensive or quicker material orders.
Overall, it’s a smoother process between the supplier and manufacturer because they both already have contacts within and know what to expect from one another.
Need help finding the right material or supplier for your product design? Submit your project details through our Sample Express, and our experienced team can help you search for material that works.