How to Find Electronic Components

How to Find Electronic Components

There's a ton of ways to find electronic components - figuring out which tool to use when is the trick.
Brooklyn Simmons

Electronic components are the building blocks of modern technology. They power everything from smartphones and computers to cars and airplanes. However, finding the right electronic components can be a challenging and time-consuming task, even for seasoned veterans at electronics OEMs and EMSes. In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of how to find electronic components and provide some strategies for locating the parts you need.

One of the best ways to find electronic components is by using online search engines and marketplaces. These platforms can help you quickly locate parts from a variety of manufacturers and suppliers. We will discuss some of the most popular electronic component search engines and marketplaces, and provide tips for using them effectively.

In addition to online resources, there are other strategies you can use to find electronic components. These include understanding electronic component specifications, using cross-reference tools, and finding alternative or equivalent parts. We will cover these topics and more in this comprehensive guide to finding electronic components.

The basics of how to find electronic components

When it comes to finding electronic components, there are several broad options available. 

The first and most popular method is to search online marketplaces and distributors. These platforms offer a wide selection of parts from various manufacturers and suppliers, making it easy to find the parts you need. Some of the most well-known online marketplaces and distributors include Digi-Key, Mouser, and Arrow Electronics. Most electronic manufacturers choose one or two distributors and build trusted relationships with them, going back time and time again for supply.

Another option is to use electronic component search engines. These search engines allow you to enter the part number or specifications of the component you need and provide a list of results from multiple sources. Some of the most popular electronic component search engines include Octopart, Findchips, and TrustedParts.

Larger buyers will often have the option to purchase electronic components directly from manufacturers. This can be a more cost-effective and reliable option for buyers who require large quantities of components or need custom parts that are not readily available through other sources. To purchase components directly from manufacturers, buyers typically need to have a strong relationship with the manufacturer and meet certain minimum order requirements. 

If you are having trouble finding a particular part or need help with procurement, you may want to consider using an electronic component broker. These brokers specialize in sourcing hard-to-find or obsolete parts and can often provide faster and more reliable access to these components than other sources. There’s a huge diversity of brokers in the secondary market, and they can be difficult to trust – but sometimes, they’re the only ones with inventory available.

Using online marketplaces and distributors to find electronic components

Online marketplaces and distributors are usually the first source buyers go to for electronic components, offering a wide variety of parts from multiple suppliers in one convenient location.

Some of the biggest online marketplaces and distributors include Digi-Key, Mouser, and Arrow Electronics. These platforms allow you to search for specific parts and filter results by price, availability, and other criteria. Many distributors also provide additional services, such as technical support and design tools, to help you find the right components for your project. 

When using online marketplaces and distributors, it's important to strike a balance between building a relationship with a single platform and having the flexibility to change direction when needed. The high level of volatility in electronics components, and especially chips, means that prices and inventory across distributors, even those who have access to the same manufacturers, will often vary widely. Buyers who focus all of their attention on a single distributor open themselves to higher purchase price variance (PPV) and more shortages. 

On the flip side, it’s time consuming to pull down inventory and pricing for an entire BOM for multiple distributors over and over. Procurement professionals the world over are well used to this balancing act, and doing it well is a core part of the job. If you want to do it better and in less time, check out Amplio’s BOM Tool. Upload your BOM, easily clean it, and then you’ll have dynamic pricing and inventory levels for the whole market at your fingertips whenever you log in.

The best electronic component search engines

When using electronic component search engines, it's important to compare results across multiple sources and verify the authenticity and quality of the components you are purchasing. They’re plugged into a much wider section of the market than the authorized distributors, but that sometimes comes at the cost of less accurate data. Top search engines include:

Octopart: Octopart is a popular electronic component search engine that provides real-time information on pricing, availability, and technical specifications from a variety of manufacturers and distributors. Octopart has a user-friendly interface and powerful search features that allow you to filter results by a range of criteria, including price, quantity, and lead time.

Findchips: Findchips is another top electronic component search engine that offers a comprehensive database of parts from a wide range of suppliers. It provides detailed information on pricing, availability, and technical specifications for each part, and allows you to compare prices and availability across multiple sources.

Trustedparts: On the other hand, Trustedparts focuses on hard-to-find and obsolete parts. It provides access to parts from a wide range of suppliers and allows you to search by part number, manufacturer, or keyword. The site also includes tools for cross-referencing and part substitution to help you find alternative components when needed.

Strategies for hard to find electronic components

When you’re looking for hard to find parts that aren’t in stock with authorized distributors, you’re going to have to dive into the secondary market of brokers.

When working with electronic component brokers, it's important to remember not to rush for the lowest-cost option. Brokers' best-priced inventory is often for old parts, parts that aren't quality-controlled, or counterfeits. Be mentally prepared for quotes to come in high, and act decisively. Prices change quickly in the secondary market.

Expect that listed price and inventory levels will be wrong, as brokers often act as middlemen and don't keep inventory on their shelves. Treat quantity and price information from brokers as a "Yes/No" field indicating that they have inventory, and reach out immediately for a quote for the quantity needed. Build a list of trusted brokers who offer quality tests, guarantee functionality, and openly report the date codes of the components to make more confident decisions on components from the secondary market. 

A premium may need to be paid to resolve a difficult shortage, and it's better to work with a few trusted brokers that might have higher prices than to approach many at once.

Tips for obsolete electronic components

When it comes to obsolete components, many of the same tips for working with brokers still apply, as you’ll likely be working with them to get the parts. An added layer here is that you should strive to move away from the component as soon as possible, because it will only become harder to find.

Procurement professionals at OEMs and EMSes know the story: often, their engineers don’t have access to the right data on the sourceability and deprecation schedule of parts, so they spec parts that will go obsolete soon after production starts. One way around this is to collaboratively use a smart BOM tool during the design and cost estimation phases of BOM development. Amplio’s tool, for instance, will reveal how easy a BOM will be to source – or whether it has obsolete parts specified in the design. The sooner these potential procurement challenges are caught, the easier they are to fix.

How to find alternative electronic components

Parametric search is a powerful tool that enables engineers and procurement professionals to find alternate electronic components quickly and easily. This search function enables the user to filter parts based on key technical specifications, such as voltage, current, package type, and operating temperature range, to name a few. By inputting these parameters into a search engine, the user can generate a list of components that meet their specific requirements.

To use parametric search effectively, it's essential to have a clear understanding of the technical specifications that are critical for the project. For example, if the voltage rating is a critical factor, the user should specify the required voltage range in the search field to ensure that only relevant parts are displayed. Once the search is complete, the user can filter the results based on additional criteria, such as cost or availability, to further narrow down the list of options.

It's also important to keep an open mind when using parametric search to find alternate electronic components. While the user may have a specific part in mind, they may find that an alternate component that meets the same technical requirements offers better pricing or availability. By exploring alternate options, the user may be able to reduce the cost of the project or improve the availability of critical parts, leading to a more successful outcome.

Wrapping up how to find electronic components

Finding electronic components can be a challenging and time-consuming process, but there are various tools and strategies available to help simplify the search. Online marketplaces, distributors, and component search engines are great resources to start with when searching for components. Parametric search is a powerful tool for finding alternative components that may work as replacements for hard-to-find components.

When working with brokers, it's important to be cautious and prepared to pay a premium for difficult-to-find components. Building a list of trusted brokers that offer quality-tested, date-assured, and guaranteed parts can make the process easier and more reliable.

If you’re fed up with your current tools or just wonder if a new software could make your life a bit easier, give Amplio a try. Our BOM Tool connects to the whole market just like Octopart, but it’s much easier to use and focuses on feeding you the exact information that you need for your components, without the distractions. If you need an alternate, our supply chain experts will dive in and help you sort through the challenging process of parametric search. And finally, if authorized distributors are out of stock, we’ll navigate the broker market for you with our PartSecure service and find you parts that you can trust.

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