Shop Talk

1.54

I’ve been listening to The Amp Hour podcast for some time and want to point out one episode that was particularly pleasant to listen to.  This is episode #412 titled “3 Cent Micros and 1000s of LEDs”. It’s Dave Jones of EEVBlog and Mike Harrison of Mike’s Electric Stuff talking shop, sharing interesting news items, and just yacking about a very wide variety of topics. I found it just the thing while standing in line to vote, rummaging through my old ham radio gear hoping my LMR400 cable was still there (wasn’t) and struggling with the failing Digikey web site (first time every: could not do a parametric search for a SMD cap without getting a weird “page not found” web server error).  Dave is free and easy this time around and the only problem folks will have is that when a Brit and an Aussie talk rapidly American ears can struggle to recognize all the words in real time, so have your “replay the last 10 seconds” button ready. Still, well worth it, and good on you Dave, for an excellent interview!

Arrows for your Quiver

Image result for quiver

Two events reminded me recently that you can’t have too many choices for solving a sourcing problem.

A client and I had finished a simple PCB design, got it off to OSH Park and OSH Stencils, and turned attention to the BOM. All passives but one: in my shop already, so check. The remaining one and some connectors: Digikey has them, so check mark. The central IC that is the point of the board:  Digikey, zero. Mouser, zero. Other suppliers we’d heard of, zero. Anyplace in the USA, zero. China, only on breakouts. Ouch.  Europe: “Rutronik”. Who? After a day of thrashing I noticed this is the chip manufacturer’s favorite distributor in Europe, and I should be able to trust them. I had to establish a business account but all was well until we got to shipping: Big ouch. And this huge minimum shipping wasn’t for  Startrek teleportation beaming from their warehouse to my bench, as the fee implied. They predicted 72 hours, but later we found that was if you’re in the EU. Oh, right. When it wasn’t at my door in 72 hours I dug up an Excel spreadsheet  via a well disguised link on my account page and on one row was a red “warning dot”. More digging and I decoded this warning to translate to English as ” six days estimated delivery from order date”. But the chips should be here in time for the reflow oven and all is well even if the client’s wallet is thinner than desired.

Just days later another client and I were deciding what parts of a new board really needed breadboarding to give us confidence in a major respin and this forced an immediate order of a few piddly parts (note to self: as soon as the part is on the short list for a design, order three of them.) I was inhaling to commiserate about shipping when the client reminded me that Arrow isn’t charging anything for shipping. Period. Zero, no matter what size the order is. I  was startled, as this has been going on for months and I just assumed it was a one shot, short time thing and had let it fade from my memory. Instead I was able to throw the part number and quantity  for a special FET I want to try out into the client’s order, smiling at the idea and my share of the shipping will be zero. Nice.

Meanwhile, the US rep for the big Euro distributor contacted me and we’ve agreed I will call her before risking another big wad on shipping that isn’t even fast in relation to the cost.

So, one arrow moved to the front of the quiver and a new one added for Euro parts that the US hasn’t discovered or that got too popular for supply here to keep up with.