The gruelling process of getting my own customise designed microSD cards on Alibaba!

 

I don't know when did I have this thought... I didn't talk about it with anyone because such little dreams are usually not supported, especially when my family is quite money sensitive! But I really wanted to get some of my own custom made microSD cards. I'm kinda bored of those "business looking" cards in the market.

I've been designing them for a while and was imagining how they would look if they're printed on a real microSD card.

And then, one day I woke up telling myself that I can always find a manufacture and get them to print some of these designs.  

So that started everything.

Finding Manufacture and Ordering Samples

Manufactures are not that difficult to find, to be honest. You can do a quick search on Google and find a list of them. I went with Alibaba.com to get a manufacturer.

I signed up and submited a ROQ (request for quotation) and was shocked to received many quotations within a day. Some of them clearly didn't read what I requested for in the ROQ while some charges too much per piece. 

However, since I wasn't really looking to get many pieces, I opted for those who supply sample at a reasonable rate. 

But I soon realised that the sample price might be cheap but the shipment fee is what that is costing an arm and leg! The shipment usually cost as much if not more than the sample itself! With that amount, you can easily buy 1.5-2 pieces of microSD cards in the market!

One of the representative from a manufacture company advised me to find a forwarder to ship my samples as that would cut down some cost. Actually, you can save up to 40% on shipment depending on the weight of your items... but I got unlucky as the forwarder I found quoted me the wrong price (more about that later).


Subquality Samples

Most of the manufature company representative would be really helpful and polite when they approached you, until you tell them that you only wanted a small quanitity. (I told them that I only need 20 pieces as I'm afraid they'll just ignore me if I tell them I only needed 1 card per design and I've 4 of them)

Some of them quoted me an atonishing high price for a sample. While others are willing to keep things reasonable especially when they know that I've a forwarder.

But getting the price right is just the first step, because ... the headache starts after that. 

While the price is right, doesn't mean that the quality is right as well. It seems that aligning the design and getting the colour right is never an easy task. Many times, the finish product is off somewhere.

Luckily, the representative would usually send a photo of the product before mailing out so I have a chance to tell them to readjust.

 Misaligned and really bad colours.
 
But then, things usually doesn't always get corrected after just 1 adjustment and you'll feel the attitude starting to change or the replies gets slower and the quality of the photos gets more blurry too. 

Sigh, I'm someone who is really bad at negotiating and I do feel bad for making them realign over and over again, so in the end, I gave in and accepted 2 so called "will do better when you order with us" samples. 
 
I really should have been more firmed.
  

Representatives may not be knowledgeable about the printing process

So well, since I didn't get the quality I wanted, I went back to adjust my designs, adding more bleed hoping it helps with the aligment and overall look. And then its back to the grueling process of finding a manufacturer.

This time round, I've decided to be more firm. I do not want to spend on subquality samples again. I make it clear right from the start that the samples have to be properly aligned. I also asked more questions, like if the colours are achievable with their printers,  how will they align the cards, do they need more bleed... blah.

I was surprised, quite a handful of the representatives responded to me that they cannot answer my questions, they have to ask the printing factory. Also, they cannot open the files to view the designs because they do not have Adobe Illustrator! 

I don't know if its fair to say this but I got a feeling that the representatives doesn't have enough knowledge about printing custom designs! They may not have enough knowledge about the whole printing process! 

While I understand that they're probably separate departments (sales and production) but I would expect the representatives to at least have a way to view the working files sent to them. I also expected that they should at least be able to advise the clients about some basic things like, what colours are achieveable or that if more bleed is needed.

I thought this would really save time and cut down wastage due to misalignments and colour differences.

Finally!

I guess I'm lucky, I eventually found one gem of the crop! A representative (Clive) who is willing to go that extra mile. He is also the only one who is willing to provide samples of each of the 3 designs, for a slightly higher price per piece though!

Well, this particular representative doesn't have Illustrator too, so he couldn't see the design. But he went down to the printing factory and then while there worked with me to get the alignments right. We tried at least 5-6 times (on dummy cards) before the aligment was close enough. He did try to hint me to just accept the cards during the 3rd or 4th try but still in the end, he have them reprinted. I'm actually quite grateful to him.

 

Card Quality and Speed

 

I want to be honest. Althought both companies produced great samples, the manufacturer that provided the Pink Creamy Design (which I called it the Creamy Series) seems to have a slightly smoother print quality. It's not that obvious unless you decide to watch it under a microscope or get really close with a macro lens.

When I ordered the samples, I was told the card have a read speed of up to 85-90MB/s and a write speed of up to 45MB/s. I did a test on h2testw and Roadkil's Disk Speed Test Version 2.0. I was quite happy with the results that the write speed actually went beyond the promised 45MB/s and the read speed is closed to the promised one. I tried copying large files in and out of the card and the transfers is fast and smooth.

I tried the card on a New Nintendo 3DS and it worked pretty well with no lag. I wish I've a Switch to try on, but I don't. I won't recommend it for 4K video shooting though. 

 

After testing, I've decided to order 1 more. I planned to fill it with photos and give it as a gift to a friend. But then ... I can't get just 1, at least not for the price I wanted. So after negotiating, they allow me to order 20 pieces (their MOQ is 50)  for a slight discount. 


The story about the Forwrder 

Oh yeah, before I forget, I did mentioned previously about the forwarder quoting me the wrong price. Well, I found this forwarder from Taobao. It's called You Ji Guo Ji Hai Yun.

I was first quoted RMB29 for first KG but after the good arrived and was consolidated, they told me the price was RMB50 for first KG! They conveniently told me, "it's a newcomer giving the wrong price". I tried to reason with them and their attitude wasn't the best. But since my items are already at their warehouse, I really don't have much choices. I still went ahead and used their service.

Well, their shipment is pretty fast and the goods arrived quite well protected. But will I use them again? Nope.

Conclusion

 

Finding a manufacture is really a gruelling process. I've contacted more than 10 of them, only to pick out 4 whom I ordered samples from. And then out of these 4, 2 were not up to standard. I really ended spending much more than I expected on these samples.

It's a dream come true, but this dream comes with quite a heavy price tag! 

Oh yeah, if you ever engage a forwarder, remember to confirm and double confirm the price with them before sending your items over! 
 
 
Anyway... I'm selling some of the excess memory cards on Shopee now, you can drop by if you're interested!


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