Getting angry about the availability of electronic components in Europe?
June 14, 2011
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.