When Is an Electronics Component Supplier Right for You?

If you're like us, sometimes you go to a large discount store for bargain bulk groceries; other times, you're off to a corner store because it's convenient or to a gourmet shop for a special (but expensive) treat. So how do you choose what electronics supplier to go to? What makes one electronics supplier better than another? Just like with food shopping, that might depend on your need of the moment.

Ordering online: If you like to order online, look for handy Web site features, such as being able to save your order and add to or modify it during multiple visits to the site. Many suppliers' Web sites offer this feature, but most offer it only after you register with their site.

Delivery time: Shipping times can vary based on where an online supplier ships from. For example, a supplier in a neighboring state might get you parts in a day or so, whereas one across the country might make you wait four or five days for your order, depending on the shipping method you choose.

Labels: Suppliers typically send parts separated into many little bags, but different suppliers have different methods of labeling parts. Some don't label parts all that well, so if you aren't yet confident enough to identify one component from another, you might want to look for a supplier who is meticulous about labeling. After ordering from a few suppliers, you can determine what style of labeling works for you.

Cost: Cost is an obvious differentiator. Some companies offer price guarantees that ensure that if you find a better price, they will match it. Others impress you with all their specialty items, but they offer them at less-impressive prices. If you're ordering a lot of electronic parts, you might want to find a lower cost resource to save a lot over time.

Part version: Be careful to check out which version of a part you're ordering. Many parts are manufactured for use on an automated assembly line with a method called surface mounting. These do not have pins that allow you to insert them in a breadboard.

Dimensions: Pay attention to dimensions. Some parts are so small that you can't easily handle them. Because the sizes are often listed in millimeters, which you might not be used to deciphering, you might get a component that's 1/8" x 1/8" instead of getting a component that you assumed was about 1/2" x 1/2".

Help: Need some help using the parts you buy? Some suppliers specialize in certain special interest areas and offer articles or tutorials on their Web sites. Other suppliers give you easy access to the manufacturer's datasheet, which provides useful information to help you see how to apply the part in a circuit.


Used with permission of the publisher from Electronics Projects For Dummies by Earl Boysen and Nancy Muir, Wiley Publishing, Copyright 2006.