I have lived and worked in China for many years and I have seen the Good, Bad and Ugly as it pertains to tool makers and molders. Most of the horror stories I have heard about Chinese Toolmakers resulted from customers that did NOT have any technical expertise with tooling and/or molding and therefore fell into the trap of the attractive low cost. I can assure you that there are tool makers and mold makers in China that are “Best In Class” examples who have the latest technology to support the most difficult design applications. As for overall cost, one must consider the program requirements and the overall manufacturing plan. To look at China as a Tooling Source to support Molding in US (or in any other country) is viable but ends up having very little cost advantages once all is said and done.
To build molds in China and Mold parts in China, especially under one roof can have significant cost benefits but usually requires the customer to add technical staff to reside in China to manage program issues—-this again must be considered in the program budget. Basically there are numerous options that are offered in China and it is obvious that many US companies have seen cost benefits in moving Tooling, Molding and Product Manufacturing over there.
Try doing a precision injection molded part in a cheap mold and see how many quality issues you have before you lose your customer. You get what you pay for especially with injection molds and machines. That doesn’t mean if you pay more you get more. One still has done their due diligence and ensure the tool maker is designing the tool properly and that the part design is correct. Balancing all three and having a capable molder is the key to success.