How do you get electronics parts where you are?

Discussion in 'Electronics Resources' started by WBahn, Aug 14, 2013.

  1. WBahn

    Thread Starter Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    17,718
    4,786
    With the kind of international membership AAC has, it is interesting to see some of the different ways people have -- and limitations they face -- when getting electronic components. So I'm curious to find out what it is like where you are.

    I'll start.

    Clearly I'm in the U.S. and this is the view from where I typically operate (which may or may not be typical for others).

    Getting electronic parts used to be really easy (a decade or two ago) because there were both chain stores (like Radio Shack) and tons of electronic surplus stores (Denver had a dozen or so) around and they all had a pretty good selection of the run-of-the-mill stuff that you might need as a hobbyist. Radio Shack was expensive, but they had it. Surplus stores were cheap, but you might play hell finding it.

    Now it is much harder to find a place where you can walk in and buy this stuff. The Denver metro area doesn't have any surplus stores that I am aware of. There is one in Colorado Springs (OEM Parts, but it is a shadow of its former self) and one up in the northern part of the state (JB Saunders, I think). Radio Shack is worthless unless you want to sign up for a phone.

    For me, Digi-Key and Mouser are my primary resources. They have HUGE selections and very high in-stock rates for the parts they stock (they are also an ordering point for lots of non-stocked parts). They are competent and easy to work with and they ship the same day. But they are not cheap, though their onezy prices have gotten a lot more competitive than they were twenty years ago.

    Then there are (were, I don't know which ones are still around or how they have evolved) places like Allied and Marshall who were volume distributors and had a much larger selection of components than Digi-Key and Mouser (not nearly the case now as Digi-Key and Mouser carry just about everything on the planet, it seems) and had much better prices, but you almost could never by anything in low quantities and often had to buy 1000 or more (maybe 50 for something expensive). But sometimes you got lucky and they had a broken lot that they would sell individual units from.

    Then there were the engineering samples from the manufacturers. It was amazing the range of parts you could get them to send you for free. I've gotten $100+ parts (I think my personal record was a part that was about $300 and of which they sent two of them) and some places would just routinely FedEx them overnight to you. It actually made sense -- they knew that the Digi-Key/Mouser types didn't stock them and they knew the Allied/Marshall types were going to insist you by lots of them. So to get people to design around their components, the manufacturers needed to supply samples pretty liberally. But while I know sampling still happens, I think it has been greatly curtailed, in part because now the Digi-Key/Mouser folks make most things available in single-quantities. But also, like everything, lots of computing power means lots of bureaucracy -- before I would call up Motorola or National, talk to an applications engineer and ask if they could sample me this or that, then that person would go pull the samples, put them in an envelope and handwrite the address on it and throw it in the mail. Now it's all computerized and official and layered with rules and policies and procedures.

    So what did all this mean for me as a student/hobbyist/engineer?

    As a student and hobbyist, my time was cheap but money was scarce. So I hated Digi-Key and spent hours going to surplus stores or ripping old equipment apart to scavenge parts.

    As an engineer, I very quickly learned that my time was valuable and that money was relatively cheap. If I spent an hour trying to find a place that would sell me a part for $50 that Digi-Key sold for $80, I had just cost the company money. So when I needed parts (generally for test systems to test an IC coming back from fab) I pulled out the Digi-Key catalog and if they carried it, I ordered it from them because the degree to which I knew they would have what I needed made their prices a bargain. And, of course, Digi-Key knew this, which is why they went to great lengths to have stock on virtually everything in their catalog.

    But the bottom line -- and I apologize for the tome -- is that in the U.S. we are very fortunate because we have easy access to a large fraction of the components we might want or need and we seldom have to look at more than a few places to find it and we can get it in our hands in only a day or two if we need it badly enough. Or, we can spend more time and effort and get stuff cheaper, but those options do seem to be drying up here because the surplus industry has largely died.

    So what's it like in the rest of the world? Would you classify your ability to get electronic parts as easy, okay as long as it's something real common, or impossible unless you can strip it out of something you find on the side of the road?
     
  2. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

    Jul 18, 2013
    10,493
    2,363
    I live in the Canadian mid-west so I have direct access to my first choice, Digi-key with overnight delivery, duty/brokerage free.
    Personally I find Digi-Key fairly reasonable on price.
    I do buy some specialty items from Futurlec, which is also pretty much world wide shipping.
    I also have a choice of 3 local stores, but only use in an emergency due to pricing.
    I also keep an eye open for deals on Ebay.
    Max.
     
  3. MrChips

    Moderator

    Oct 2, 2009
    12,410
    3,352
    Pretty much the same as you.

    Along with Digi-key and Mouser, I would add Newark/Farnell/Element 14

    There are some smaller mail-order places like Jameco.

    And specialty places like Sparkfun, Futurlec and so many more, too many to list

    https://www.sparkfun.com/

    http://www.futurlec.com/
     
  4. WBahn

    Thread Starter Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    17,718
    4,786
    The last time I interacted with Newark and Farnell (I think), I would have put them in the Allied and Marshall group. So are they now tailoring more to the single-unit purchaser?

    Never heard of Element 14. Have to check them out.

    I've done some business with Jameco and haven't yet ordered anything from Sparkfun, but that is a matter of discipline (i.e., I've successfully stopped myself from indulging).
     
  5. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

    Jul 18, 2013
    10,493
    2,363
  6. WBahn

    Thread Starter Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    17,718
    4,786
    If I ever get anywhere near Thief River Falls, I plan to stop by Digi-Key and somehow talk my way into a tour of their facility. It must be impressive!

    And I agree that Digi-Key's prices really have become more reasonable. I suspect that Mouser played a big role in that. Twenty years ago Digi-Key and Mouser were the same-only-different. They actually had fairly little overlap in their product offerings with Mouser being the place to go for the larger, electrical, electro-mechanical type stuff and Digi-Key being the place to go for electronics and small stuff. So many people were customers of both and just accepted that you needed to do business with both. But now they seem to have a very significant overlap and so are directly competing for the same customers for the same business and so now customers are in a much better position to choose one over the other as their primary source for nearly everyting. Since both have excellent availability and customer service, it comes down to price.
     
  7. WBahn

    Thread Starter Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    17,718
    4,786
  8. nsaspook

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 27, 2009
    2,902
    2,154
    I stock the internal shops electronic part spares so I have a open account with several local supply houses near Portland.
    Some stores specialize in AV/Comm products with a good selection of cable and connectors.
    http://store.doubleo.com/Default.asp
    Discrete parts are becoming harder to find locally but even our local Frys still has a pretty large selection due to several large names in manufacturing located around the area (Intel, Microchip, TSMC, chip, etc ...) creating a market for parts.
    http://www.oregon-electronics.com/x/home.php

    I use most of the on-line large parts stores but sometimes you can only find a old part on EBAY or some oddball on-line store specializing in old parts like when searching for repair parts for a RF tuner in a 15 year old plasma etch chamber.
    http://www.surplussales.com/antennas/TransVarInductor.html
     
  9. MaxHeadRoom

    Expert

    Jul 18, 2013
    10,493
    2,363
    On a related note, for anyone also involved in the need for mechanical hardware, it is well worth sending for the free Cat. from Misumi, also to use as an engineering ref..
    They have quite the inventory, and even custom modify their products for a small fee.
    Max.
     
  10. gerty

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 30, 2007
    1,153
    304
    Small town middle TN, nothing local, all mail order. Jameco, DigiKey, Mouser, Electronics Goldmine.........
     
  11. bertus

    Administrator

    Apr 5, 2008
    15,635
    2,342
  12. Metalmann

    Active Member

    Dec 8, 2012
    700
    223



    Same here.

    Get way too many catalogs though.
     
  13. WBahn

    Thread Starter Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    17,718
    4,786
    So, speaking Radio Shack and what's become of that once respectable place, I was at the mall yesterday and happened to walk past the Radio Shack. So I went in and said, "Yes, I'm looking for some 2N3904 transistors." To which the gal responded, "Is that one of the new smart phones?"

    As it turned out, they did actually carry them (and the other person working there at least knew where to look for something that said "transistors" on the bin). They wanted $1.49 for a single transistor! Once I saw the price, I said, "Never mind, I'm not desparate enough to pay $1.50 for a 9 cent transistor," and left. I was just guessing at the price. The Digi-Key onezy price is 18 cents and in bulk they are just 3 cents.
     
  14. nsaspook

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 27, 2009
    2,902
    2,154
    It's a shame what Radio Shack as become but at least they are still around as a limited parts resource in a emergency (I've repaired some very important production line equipment using parts from them over the years when down-time was costing thousands per hour and reasonable cost was secondary). They also have a Commercial Sales Group for company Purchase Orders use.

    I worked at several in the Dallas Tx area as a kid (early 70s) while in school when they still sold lots of electronics with Allied Radio.
    http://www.radioshackcatalogs.com/catalog_directory.html

    One of coolest things they sold a few years ago was a branded mini Leatherman that I use daily but you can still get one, just not from the Shack anymore (typical).
    http://www.leatherman.com/products/product.asp?id=21&f=8&c=1
    [​IMG]
     
  15. rogs

    Active Member

    Aug 28, 2009
    279
    37
    Here in the UK, it's pretty much the same story os the US. Very few 'component' shops left for the hobbyist to use. I had one literally 'just up the road' for many years, but the guy dropped compnont sales about 3 years ago. He simply couldn't justify the time, spcae, and stock costs for the (dwindling) number of sales....

    First choice for me is now Rapid Electronics mail order. Free delivery on orders over £20... so I tend to wait until I need enough stuff!
    If they don't have it, then Farnell or RS Components probably will - although they tend to be a bit more expensive for small quantities.

    I'm retired now, so I only buy stuff for the odd hobby project. Usually something I need, but can't buy 'off the shelf'. These days that's not many items -- and it's usually cheaper to buy than build, if it is 'off the shelf' !

    I'm surprised that the availability of certain items have survived as long as they have.

    I really didn't think as much though hole 4000 series CMOS would still be available as cheaply as it is. And still easy to find!......
     
  16. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    4,302
    1,988
    I dont order from anywhere but mouser any more. Newark screwed me over too many times with late shipping, and mouser is in the same state. I get my booty within 3 days using the 7-10 business day shipping option. I've bought components from frys, and occasionally radio shack. I prefer digikey's search function but I rarely get anything because mouser is cheaper. I just exploit their search engine and get the part number then buy it from mouser. Newark's search engine sucks. I've ordered from allied before but cant remember the experience; I assume it was lackluster because I don't ever order there.
     
  17. WBahn

    Thread Starter Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    17,718
    4,786
    No one from the rest of the world?

    As I mentined in the original post, I'm primarily interested in how folks from other parts of the world get stuff. We have folks from India, Nigeria, Saudia Arabia, Argentina, France, and a host of other places and I'm quite curious how all of you get stuff.
     
  18. nsaspook

    AAC Fanatic!

    Aug 27, 2009
    2,902
    2,154
  19. strantor

    AAC Fanatic!

    Oct 3, 2010
    4,302
    1,988
    I saw a hobbyist store selling arduinos and such in downtown Toronto. Like a brick & mortar sparkfun.
     
  20. WBahn

    Thread Starter Moderator

    Mar 31, 2012
    17,718
    4,786
    You mean SparkFun isn't brick & motar?

    (Says the guy that lives about 30 miles from SparkFun :D)
     
Loading...