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Octopart - search engine for electronic parts Answered

Two weeks ago I met with Andres and Sam of Octopart. Andres had literally dropped out of graduate school the day before to join Sam full-time building their search engine for electronic parts. You enter the part number, or simply its title or use, and Octopart returns the best matched specific components, their prices and availability from several suppliers, and links to the relevant catalog pages.

I wish this had existed back in 1998. At the time, I was in charge of building the power controller for a web-controlled, wireless robot with a live video feed as part of the ultimate class in MIT's undergraduate mechanical engineering program, 2.009 Product Design. What is now a relatively easy task, was really kicking my butt then. After two painstakingly hand-built MOSFET H-bridges driven by charge pumps had exploded in my face, I was at my wits ends. I knew there had to be a better solution, but could not find it anywhere. At one stage, I even sat down with the Digikey catalog, and started reading through all of the components in the sections I thought might have something relevant.

Pop "h-bridge" into Octopart and the fourth result is my favorite chip (and what eventually saved my skin in 2.009), the LMD18200. Hey look, the cheapest price with the highest availability is at Digikey, I think I'll get it there...

Octopart is pretty cool as is, and I'm sure there will soon be lots more distributors. What's even more exciting, in my opinion, is the concept of Octopart searching through a webpage, determining what specific parts are mentioned, and generating a personalized shopping cart with the cheapest and most readily available parts. When we spoke, Andres and Sam said it might be a few months until they were ready to release at all - it would seem quiting grad school has been good to Octopart, so I'm sure cool new additions are right around the corner.

3 Replies

westfw (author)2007-03-06

Partminer was around in 1998, but they've since started charging for access. I don't recall how they were on the sort of search you mention; I used them mostly for pricing searches for specific parts (even bought some AVRs through them.) I recall talking to either digikey or partminer at a trade show; seems that partminer was invasive enough that digikey had to install a "search sever" just for them...

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DavidR (author)2007-03-05
They don't have comments enabled on their blog, so I'll whine (and state the obvious) on yours. My ideal component search would include

  • Much smarter package-type stuff : "DAC with <=20 pins available in non-BGA". "1uF ceramic capacitor in through-hole" "audio amplifier available in SOIC and DIP"
  • Better indexing: No hits for "bridge tied load"? "only" 874 opamps?
  • Some sort of grouping of results. This is the hardest part, I bet, but there's a huge amount of room for progress. The big distributors' catalogs sometimes do this kinda' OK. One axis is grouping of similar parts (search for attiny yields a first page of different flavors of ATTiny 11's.) another is a way to wade through broad spaces of components. Opamps are the classic example here.
  • Better parametric selection. I loathe selecting 17 different voltage ranges in a scrolling multiselect box (1.8V-5V, 1.6V-4.6V, 3.3V, 3.3V-6V, ....) when what I really want to say is "My power supply is 3.3V. Give me parts that can deal."

Of course, I'm really just bitter because I can't find a low-end DAC + BTL speaker driver in one simple cheap package.

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dan (author)2007-03-04

www.findchips.com works pretty good, although they have not added any new feature in a while so i guess the time is ripe if someone has thought of a better way.

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