Let's Make Robots!

Getting angry about the availability of electronic components in Europe?

Hi there,

it has been a while and I am still working on the stereoscopic vision issue for my small robot. Meanwhile I learnt, that the Parallax Propeller chip is by far to slow to handle and stream-edit an BT.656 conforming digital video stream, at least for what I have in mind. Therefore I am now working on a hardware-based video filter made of discrete components - a poor man's FPGA, so to say.

In any case, the conversion analog-digital and vice versa is done using comercially available ICs. I have chosen the MAX9526 and the CS4954 for the former and the latter. While selecting the hardware and reading through the different manuals and data sheets was much fun, the procurement of those IC from a place in Europe was a pain. Even more, if you are not a registered company but just a private individual.

Small and medium sized local distributors do not offer the IC's I need. Large (and partly european) distributors like RS-Components or Farnell are not interested in a small-number business. I was rebuffed by all of them right during the registration process. Farnell even gave me phone call to underline this and to point me to a second source reseller in Germany, who of course has got not the full portfolio of electronic components. So, this was not a choice.

Then I thought of Digi-Key, as they claim to ship stuff to all over the world. But don't forget the customs issue - Digi-Key might have a good stock of components but - when it comes to international shipping - does not account for duties, taxes and brokerage fees. This is really annoying. My prefered shipping method would be DDP, that I don't have to show up at my local customs authority for paying an unpredictable amount of bugs bucks over my actual order.

Therefore, today and for the first time, I am going to take up the cudgels for Mouser Electronics. They do not ask questions about the size of your business nor whether you are a hobbyist. They allow you to order stuff as you want it. They offer free international shipping if your basket is over $75, and as requested, shipping is DDP directly to your home door, provided your have chosen FedEx as your forwarder. For some unknown reason UPS does not handle the import turnover tax (German: Einfuhrumsatzsteuer) in contrast to FedEx, so be careful with UPS.

And most impressing to me was so see, how fast an order is processed and shipped to my home. Some days ago I ordered stuff for about €200 and it arrived just in two and a half days. I would say, this is pretty fast, compared to my lazy local dealers...

So for you geeks is the US or CAN - please lean back, enjoy your situation and ignore this post. But if anyone else in Europe or Germany is facing similar problems in procuring specific electronic components, I really recommend Mouser. IMHO, they have left a really professional mark.



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I've ordered once from Digikey and I was happy with them. Shipping was fast and not too much hassle with customs. If I remember correctly it was like this: My order was above 65€ so the shipping was free. When the package arrived to Finland they called me from UPS to get needed information for customs clearance. After that UPS delivered the package and sent me invoice for VAT.

Inside Europe I've used TME couple of times (http://www.tme.eu). They too have minimum amounts for components. Note that their prices don't have VAT included (last time I checked)!



(It was founded by a hobbyist)

I have heard that http://www.shopusa.com/ should be good for shipping stuff from the US. Especial if the webshop only want to send to US address. They should do all the customs handling and you get the package directly to your home. I might be worth checking out.

And yes, Farnell and RS in Europe dont do small stuff. Though I can order part and go to he pick-up counter here in Copenhagen and pay in cash.

BTW is Germany not a part of Europe  ;)

Thanks for pointing me to shopusa.com, though I think that the availability issue now is resolved for me with Mouser. But why should Germany not be a part of Europe? I don't get it...

In Romania is worse altough I have a very good experience with Farnell, as an individual not a company, my orders (all below 100 Euro) have arrived at my door in 2 - 3 days - buying parts from Romania, generally, takes longer :)

From Mouser to Romania is not a very good option because the shipping is 40 Euro and free shipping applies only from 150 Euro.

P.S.: About "a poor man's FPGA" ... Digilent have some FPGA boards that may suit your need.

It is terrible to get IC's in Europe, when you are just a hobbyist.
The cheapest way for me to get my chips is to send a US colleague of mine some cash, have him/her buy it and ship it to me accompanied with the business mail.

Ordering as a hobbyist can be a pain, luckily it appears to be getting better here in the Netherlands, there's one or two smaller webshops that are starting to realize people want to do more things digitally.

Lucky guy! I have no US colleague at hand...

Nevertheless, can you please point me to the two mentioned dutch webshops? This is very interesting because inside Europe shipping and duties are no longer a severe problem.

Thanks in advance!


I had similar problems in Australia and to some extent here in China.

I am surprised to hear you would have this problem in Europe. I though Europe was "more civilised" than that ;-p

"More civilised" ?? Haha, might depend on the point of view...

I'm in the United States and still prefer Mouser. Good to see they're taking care of the other side of the pond as well.