The idea of importing intrigues me but at the same time my mind is all over the place and I need to be careful about doing too much. It's funny how small decisions can sometimes get blown up in terms of using more time, money and resources than intended.
I've been reading the book "Building An Import Export Business" by Kenneth D. Weiss as a good introduction to importing. However, I want to find people who've actually done it. Maybe I'll email Bre from MakerBot and see if they can give me some tips. I built a Makerbot Thing-o-matic and there are 3 Chinese stepper motors on it along with a geared DC motor for the automatic build platform that looks like it's made in China. My home robot design will have from 2 to 5 stepper motors on it so savings from importing can become significant.
UPS, Fedex, and DHL I believe do handle importing logistics from start to finish so that's my next research. 500 stepper motors at 1.5 pounds each is a lot of weight. I believe the stepper motor manufacturer said shipping by sea is pretty cheap compared to air so I'm leaning towards that. A 2 month lead time to get the shipment is ok for me. Actually, with some of the US suppliers who I believe get the steppers overseas, the lead time can be up to 14 weeks!
Quality is definitely an issue. The good news is that it's relatively easy to get a few stepper motor samples for Engineering evaluation. However, there's still the risk of a bait and switch if the motor you evaluate is not the one that gets shipped.
How do you'll import items to the US? Do you use UPS, Fedex or DHL? Do you have a shipping broker or customs agent that you use or can recommend?