Sources of cheap Industrial Automation components

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,696
This is me sharing my sources and inviting others to share their sources as well. Sources for things like PLCs, VFDs, and DIN rail components (panel guts), CNC parts, and the thousands of other things that go along with Industrial Electrical/Automation. Also for things like motors, hydraulics, bearings, etc.

As a millenial (go ahead, judge me all you want) I loathe the traditional purchasing process:
  • Contact Manufacturer, request contact of local distributor/vendor
  • Establish account with vendor, agree to terms, etc., wait around on NET authorization
  • Contact vendor applications engineer
    • tell them what you want to accomplish,
    • wait for them to tell you what you need
    • sort out the crap they tried to upsell you on
  • Request a quote, wait around on salesperson
  • Send PO, then wait around on an invoice, then keep tabs on the open PO to make sure vendor gets a check mailed out
  • Entertain regular unwanted visits from salesman who wants to walk around your facility and identify opportunities to sell you more stuff
I much prefer the online purchasing model; basically the Amazon experience:
  • Visit vendor website, go through a wizard to determine what you need in a few mouse clicks
  • Automatically add that BOM to your cart, get instant pricing
  • Pay with a credit card
  • Done in 10 minutes, as opposed to a week later in above scenario.
I will base my designs on parts that I know I can order online, from vendors that list their physical quantity on the website, so I'm not surprised by long lead times. I will go to lengths to avoid any parts that require me to go through the traditional process, coming up with creative workarounds, and resorting to account/quote/Invoice/PO purchasing only if there is no other choice.

The preferences I have just described are strongly reflected in the list to follow.

  • My favorite (by far) first: AutomationDirect. Here you can find 90% of everything you could ever need, including most but not all of the products included in the rest of the links. Several lines of PLCs, all with Free programming software, and with excellent documentation written in English, not translated. HMIs, drives, Panels/enclosures, pneumatics, wire, cable, nearly everything. Only thing they don't have is hydraulics. Usually for prices much lower than anywhere else. I particularly love their website. If you do need/want to talk to a human, their humans are very good at talking to you. Fast & free shipping.
  • For hydraulics and mechanical power stuff, SurplusCenter. Failing that, McMaster-Carr.
  • For computers, Displays, rugged electronics, motion controls, etc: Advantech.
  • For low cost Servos and drives <2kW, DMM Tech.
  • For Hard-to-find bearings: VXB.com
  • For motion controls: Mesa Electronics.
  • For mechanical CNC components (and some electronics): Automation-Overstock.
  • For Chinese motors, drives, 3D printer, laser, and CNC stuff: Automation Technologies & fasttobuy.com (no formal endorsement from me on either of these, I've never ordered here, but the prices look amazing and I've heard they're legit.)
  • For breakout boards and other PCBs/modules: Winford Engineering (American quality, American price) and CZH-Labs (Chinese quality, Chinese price)
  • For buttons, relays, DIN rail stuff, and much more: Automation Systems Interconnect. Hit or miss on prices, but mostly very good deals to be had. Chinese quality/price
  • Of course the big 3 (Mouser, DigiKey, and Newark) sell automation stuff but they don't specialize in it, so unless you know exactly what you want, it can be hard to find. (Mouser is my favorite of the 3)
  • For strain gauge and load cell stuff, Load Cell Systems. No web checkout; website is only half-automated, but the purchasing process is easy enough and prices are hard to beat.
  • For Temperature controls, Omega. Actually their prices suck, but they have everything you could need or want. If you can't find what you're looking for, look here.
  • For hobbyist electronics that can be useful in automation: Jameco, Adafruit, Sparkfun.
  • Enclosures and DIN rail assemblies for making your own Industrial Automation widgets: BUD & OKW.
  • Lower cost/Higher risk options: Alibaba/Aliexpress, Ebay, etc.
One website I Don't recommend: VFDs.com. Their website is set up to make it look like they have everything under the sun in stock, when in reality I think they have no actual inventory. When you order from them, they place an order to the manufacturer (or another distributor) and it ships from that place, not from a VFDs.com warehouse. I've ordered twice from them and got burned both times. The last time I called for a shipping update and had to provide the name of the website I was calling about (VFDs.com) which implies to me that whoever owns this site owns multiple other sites selling unrelated wares, but engaged in the same practice of reselling without ever taking possession of the goods.
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
3,617
We (Project Engineers) were not allowed to specify a particular vendor's brand and model unless there was an extremely specific Bonafide reason to do so, and you'd better be damn well prepared to state and prove your case as to why if they were not on our approved vendor's list. That was the purvey of our purchasing department who certified vendors to do business with us. Any salesman was welcome to call on us in Project Engineering to pitch his product (and take us out for a free lunch) but if he hadn't been certified by purchasing, he wasn't going to get an order. Such is normal in industry.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,696
We (Project Engineers) were not allowed to specify a particular vendor's brand and model unless there was an extremely specific Bonafide reason to do so, and you'd better be damn well prepared to state and prove your case as to why if they were not on our approved vendor's list. That was the purvey of our purchasing department who certified vendors to do business with us. Any salesman was welcome to call on us in Project Engineering to pitch his product (and take us out for a free lunch) but if he hadn't been certified by purchasing, he wasn't going to get an order. Such is normal in industry.
That sounds awful, I'm so sorry you had to put up with that.
 

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
3,769
At the university we had a similar policy and over a certain amount things needed to get bids but I was management in an academic unit and the rules didn't exactly apply. The procurement manager for IT was a good guy and a friend, we always worked out getting something from a particular vendor if I or a faculty member required it.

We did have preferred vendors but if someone wanted to use a certain supplier I could always get them added to the list.

If I wasn't in academics, that would have be nearly impossible.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,696
I suspect I may exist in an uncommon bubble of freedom. I have two jobs; my LLC and my day job. As the owner of my LLC of course I am free to use whatever vendors I want, barring any unusual stipulations by my clients. At my day job I am not questioned. The company I work for is primarily an operations company and the Engineering dept. is very small. The electrical/controls division of it consists of.... me. There is nobody here qualified to evaluate the vendor choices I make. All my superiors know is that the bottom line on the works that I deliver is half the cost of outsourcing to a 3rd party and they're happy with that.
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
3,617
When the corporate lawyers get involved... In order to do business with Hercules Inc. (no longer exists) you had to sign a Terms and Conditions form which required you to have 2 Million dollars of insurance and that basically no matter who was at fault it was NOT Hercules (probably not enforceable but would have to be litigated). Small companies and contractors couldn't meet the insurance requirement and large companies' lawyers refused to allow them to sign the T&C.
 

Reloadron

Joined Jan 15, 2015
6,227
We (Project Engineers) were not allowed to specify a particular vendor's brand and model unless there was an extremely specific Bonafide reason to do so, and you'd better be damn well prepared to state and prove your case as to why if they were not on our approved vendor's list. That was the purvey of our purchasing department who certified vendors to do business with us. Any salesman was welcome to call on us in Project Engineering to pitch his product (and take us out for a free lunch) but if he hadn't been certified by purchasing, he wasn't going to get an order. Such is normal in industry.
My own situation was similar but things improved. I finally achieved a point where I just put everything on purchasing. I could suggest a vendor but only from approved vendor list. Fortunately all purchasing of raw materials or source inspection weren't my problem. I worked in a separate building sort of like a skunk works so we were somewhat isolated from the main plant. I remember endless discussions, more like arguments with purchasing over why I wanted what I wanted and where I wanted it from. :) The company was good about "if Ron says he needs it, he needs it. After awhile I got real good at justifications. I was fortunate in that the last 25 or so years of my career I had the pleasure of working with some of the best people I could have ever hoped for. But yes, those early days were pretty much like post #1. I also agree as to Omega and or Newport but they had what I wanted when I wanted it and the few times I had to get help from their applications engineering they delivered.

Ron
 
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