[hackerspaces] where do you buy electronics components and tools?

Peter Ing peter.ing.za at gmail.com
Wed Nov 3 14:02:44 CET 2010

I'm in Africa, SouthAfrica to be exact. The hobbyist scene is very
fragmented down here and we really don't have much support from the
suppliers, who focus mostly on big buying customers in the manufacturing
industry. They will supply you with components at reasonable prices however
don't expect to be first in the que or high on the priority list, and
sometimes you can feel the sales people getting irritated with you when you
come along and place orders that barely exceed $2. Even when they know your
face already. These places also charge you differently depending on the mood
of the staff and who you talk to.

We do have one or two smaller stores and shops that supply to the hobbyist
market as well as to the amateur radio community, but the prices are a bit
steep, but they are popular and have been around for years. This kind of
business isnt very sustainable with such a scattered customer base so you
will often find that these stores are a subdivision of a bigger business
that has steady income through supplying industry.

RS have a big presence here with warehouses but cater mostly to the
industrial and manufacturing sectors. We also have access to Farnells
catalog at a 30% markup through a local company acting as an agent, but most
people don't know about Farnell.

Otherwise I have seen many people just buying off the internet from
Adafruit, Sparkfun and of course Seeedstudio. Less hassle and no middle man,
even if you have to wait. Something that have done is place an order with
someone else to save shipping.

I myself am in the process of starting something in this area. I have also
developed a low cost Arduino clone suitable called the ZArdino for the South
African hobbyist community, and I have tried to keep the design as simple as
possible. Making use of mostly through hole components except for the FT232
and using common sized components that any hobbyist and student should be
able to find,

Instead of adopting a rigid business model I have actually gone and tried an
experimental approach to opensource business to help encourage hackerspaces
to get going locally it works along these lines:

-I wil sell you a completely assembled unit at a reasonable price close to
the Arduino price. I am charging you for my time and labour, and support,
however I will sell you a dissambled kit (with the FT232 already soldered)
for a lot less and you can build or trouble shoot it yourself.

-Or if you want you can obtain the blank PCB directly from my supplier ( on
a COD basis) and you can build as many and even sell them to others if you
want. I gave the supplier permission to sell boards from my production runs
in this way to anyone.

Not everyone will have the skills to build and troubleshoot a board
themselves, but it offloads a lot of pressure from me because of all the
requests I have had after publishing the design.

The response has been phenomenal, even though I haven't made any money of
this project and I don't intend to, since the project has been open sourced
in the truest sense of the word. I do however benefit in one way, my web
address is on all the boards so I get marketing out of this for the future.
An open source advertising model if you wish.
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