You can save a lot of time and money if you know where to search for specific parts. Before you purchase parts for your next project, Consider the Following(Bill Nye Voice):
Purchase in bulk when you can. You can buy 50 bearings from China cheaper than 2-3 bearings from a lot of other places. I usually do this for common parts that I like(microcontrollers, motors, gears, bearings, shafts, switches, buttons). There is something special about getting an awesome idea for a project and actually having all of the parts on hand. I know that some of you may not have the budget to do this, but if you're smart with your money, it can take you pretty far.
There are a variety of factors that come into play when choosing your vendor. How much time do you have? What is your budget? Do you need a specialized part or product?
Step 1: My Favorite Places to Get Parts in No Particular Order
1. Skycraft Parts and Surplus - Must go in person to appreciate. It's an Engineer's dream store. I could build anything from this store. Located in Winter Park FL, it is a must stop every time I visit Orlando. Adam Savage even shopped there. If you know of similar surplus stores, please share them below.
2. Servocity - For Mechanical, Electrical and everything in between. I really enjoy their actobotics line.
3. Adafruit - Packed with electronic goodies. I love Adafruit because they are constantly improving their products and have great documentation for everything.
4. Spark - Fantastic line of network connected microcontrollers. I'm patiently waiting their cellular microcontroller.
5. eBay - Great for vintage electronic parts and a mixture of everything. Ebay takes the buyers side 100% of the time so there is no need to worry about purchasing from countries all over the world.
6. AliExpress - For things I don't need yet. The shipping takes forever, but you can't beat the price. You can find microcontrollers for around $3 each. I've never had a problem ordering from here other than the shipping. Like I said, order things you don't need yet from here.
7. Alibaba, Global Sources - Your gateway to Chinese factories and suppliers. Good place to start if you are looking for a place to mass produce your product in China. Once you find your vendor, you can directly work with them outside of the websites. A bit of caution, use an email address other than your main email. You will get a flood of factories basically begging for your business once you start searching.
8. D.B. Roberts - Great for bulk purchasing fasteners and hardware. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote.
9. McMaster-Carr, Grainger, MSC Industrial Supply, Amazon Supply, Misumi - If I'm in a time crunch, they are my go to, as they have a little bit of everything and they ship fast. They are on the pricey side for most things though. Good option if you need raw material.
10. Pololu - My favorite stepper motor drivers and general robotics type products.
11. DirtyPCBs - It's not what is sounds like. They aren't dirty at all. Well, they are dirty cheap. I'm a big fan of their Protopack for $14. You get around 10 PCBs for $14! You might get 8 or you might get 15. Either way, the price is great!
12. Advanced Circuits - Fast, high quality pcb services.
13. WHX Circuits - If you have the time, WHX Circuit is the best for bulk orders of your pcb. They will also make custom cable assemblies and harnesses. Email email@example.com to get a quote. They accept wire transfers or PayPal.
14. Profab Electronics Manufacturing- Great place to get your pcbs populated. They will also give you a turn key assembly options. They will populate your boards, assemble them into your product and package them in your own packaging. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a quote on your project.
16. Rochester Electronics - This company buys up inventories of discontinued ICs. If you can't find it from the above listed sources, it's probably here or on ebay.
18. Atlas Packaging - Good choice if you need custom packaging. They print and manufacture everything in house. Email email@example.com for a quote.
19. Printed Solid - My favorite place to get 3d printing filament. Their customer service is outstanding!
20. Constantines Wood Center - Best place for exotic woods and woodworking supplies. They have an online store, but if you are ever near Ft. Lauderdale Fl, you should stop in.
Where is your favorite place to get parts? Please share in the comments!