Resources

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If you are looking for suppliers for parts or material, here are some possibilities.

Unless specifically noted, listings here should not be taken as endorsements or recommendations. They are just suggestions.

If you have information about any of these topics, please get in touch so that it can be shared here.

WANTED:

  • Sources of motors and gears
  • Sources of small fasteners and bearings
  • Details of PCB Manufacturers
  • Links for CAD/CAM software for Electronics and Mechanical work
  • Machining/Manufacturing services available online
  • Suppliers of micro machining cutters - endmills, drills etc
  • Suppliers and information relating to 3D printers
  • Suppliers and information relating to Laser Cutters
  • Suppliers and information about CNC machines like the Chinese CNC-3040 and cousins


Parts

General

  • are in Hong Kong and can supply a wide range of mechanical parts to anywhere in the world. Mostly, they are likely to be useful for a range of fixed-size spur and pinion gears in a variety of pitches. They do also have some interesting looking small planetary gearmotors that are not the usual Pololu-style N20 items.
  • HobbyKing Sell a huge range of parts. Mostly aimed at the RC model enthusiast, you can find motors, batteries, battery chargers and tools here as well. Note that you can change the currency and country settings at the top of the page. When you view a catalogue item take care to check the entry to see if it will come from the UK, EU or global warehouse to avoid getting stung by import duty and VAT.
  • have a great range of gear for the small robot builder. Much of this stock comes from the many well-known manufacturers like AdaFruit, Sparkfun and Pololu. On the Hobbytronics site you can search specifically by brand which is very helpful.
  • pimoroni are more a supplier of higher level modules like the Raspberry Pi and BBC MicrBit. They do have component level stuff as well. You can get the popular N20 gearmotors here for a very good price.


Gears

  • KKPMO Gears can make a wide variety of micro pinions and gears down to 0.1mod. You can almost certainly find the exact gear you need here. Recent changes have made this site rather less useful. Still worth a look though.
  • Homefly show a good range of small gears. The list appears to be a collection of products from various suppliers like Didel and Wes-Technik but it is handy to have them in one place.

Fasteners

  • Model Fixings can supply machine screws, nuts, washers and other fixings. They will do screws down to M1.6 in steel. They can also supply taps and dies to match.
  • Laptop Screws Direct are a specialist supplier. They only do screws down to M2 but they do have some good products with thin heads which can be hard to find. These are the kind of screws used to fasten hard disks and other small parts in laptops. They have some useful multi-packs with a range of common sizes.
  • Shop4Fasteners list a huge variety of fasteners, screws and fixings. For small robot work, they can supply machine screws down to M1.6 in a variety of lengths and head styles.
  • Misumi are a global supplier of a bewildering variety of hardware. They have pretty well any kind of screw that you might reasonably want with the great benefit that you can download cad models of everything.
  • McMaster-Carr are a huge supplier in the United States. Their web site is well organised and has a useful parametric search. They are able to supply metric screws as small as M0.5. If you are a user of Fusion 360 for CAD/CAM then you may already know that the McMaster-Carr catalogue of parts have CAD models that can be placed directly in your Fusion 360 projects.
  • Hobbyking have a section on their site, under workbench, where they list lots of hardware items including metric screws down to M2.

Bearings

  • Model Fixings can supply miniature bearings and shim washers. The shims are a bit big with a minimum ID of 3mm but their smallest bearings have 2m ID. The bearings are all steel so you will have to look elsewhere for more exotic, ceramic bearings.

Tyres

  • Banzai Hobby in Japan have several different Miniz-tyres and will ship world-wide. Although you can find these tyres more locally, the price at Banzai is what Japanese locals pay. For example, a set of four Kyosho MZW2-20 tyres from a UK seller may be £10 or more whereas they are just £3 from Banzai. Postage is very reasonable as well.
  • RC Parts EU show a good selection of Mini-Z tyres including the Kyosho MZW2 in a range of hardnesses. Prices are reasonable but stock levels may be patchy.

Motors

Try GizmosZone, Hobbytronics and Pimoroni.

  • (wanted)

Materials

Plastics

  • The Plastic Shop can supply a good variety of engineering plastics. Although they are an industrial supplier, they can sell you small amounts. For example sheet materials can be purchased in sizes down to 20mm x 20mm if you really want. Rod stock is sold in 3000mm lengths but they will cut that into 10 pieces for you at no additional charge.

Balsa and Strip Hardwood

  • SLEC can provide a range of balsa sheet and strip as well as a variety of hardwoods in strip form. They also have Plywood and thin MDF for laser cutting.

Batteries

Suppliers

  • Robotbirds are mostly about RC model planes. They also sell a great range of batteries. Service is good in my experience. Also check out their other stuff like chargers, FPV video, motors, controllers and so on.


Material Properties

Plastics

Machining

Cutters

  • Drill Service UK supply a wide range of cutters - down to 0.001" mills!!!!
  • Crownhill can supply cutters down to 0.1mm
  • CNC Plus in Germany specialise in CNC accessories and spare parts. They have solid carbide milling cutters down to 0.3mm with 1.5mm flute length. Perfect for milling small gears. Prices are pretty reasonable compared to some sources.
  • Mega Electronics have a good range or drills and mills for PCB and fine machining work.

Speeds and Feeds

  • CNCCOOKBOOK Speeds and Feeds has a PDF file with a bunch of useful information about speeds and feeds if you are machining your own parts. Intended for CNC machining, the data is still applicable to manual machining so long as you remember that manual, one-off machining is often a much more gentle process that is less focussed on efficient removal of material. The CNCCookbook site has a lot of other useful information as well.
  • Precisebits is a US company selling a large range of micromachining cutters. They have this helpful guide to setting up the ideal speeds and feeds fro your cutters.

Electronics

Suppliers

  • Octopart, while not a supplier, should probably be your go-to site when searching for a part. Enter the part number and Octopart will find all matching parts with links to suppliers and datasheets. Invaluable for reverse engineering robots from photos or schematics. Also a good way to track down parts that your favourite supplier does not stock. Be aware that some of the suppliers listed will be distributors like Arrow. However, RS, Farnell, Mouser and Digi-Key will all appear in the list if they stock the part.
  • Farnell Are a premium supplier of electronic components, tools and instruments. They operate world-wide, have a very wide range of stock and are not outrageous for prices - usually. Shipping is fast and reliable. Personal orders are welcome. Parametric parts search can be very useful. The links is to the UK site but they have country-specific sites for lots of places around the world. Note that some items may be listed as US stock. They will be much more expensive and slow to arrive.
  • RS is a long-established supplier of all things electronic. They accept personal orders and have fast shipping which is free for orders made online - no minimum value. Like Farnell, they have country specific sites around the world.
  • Digi-Key boast the world's largest selection of electronic components and they can probably sell you anything that you need. While they are a US based company, they have country-specific sites. Shipping is fast and you can arrange to pre-pay any import duties and tax. Shipping is free for orders over £33.
  • Mouser is another US-based supplier with a UK site. They also serve many other countries. They are worth a look because all the suppliers have slightly different inventories.
  • Rapid Electronics are based in the UK. Traditionally, they have had a more limited range of items but they are often very competitively priced. Shipping is free for orders over £30.
  • ESR are a small supplier in the North of England. As well as a range of electronic components, Arduino-related stuff and various kits and modules, they have a good range of items specifically related to home PCB manufacture including etchant, resist, tanks, trays and drills. There is a nice selection of small HSS and carbide drills for PCBs.


Connectors

  • Toby can be a great place to find connectors if the usual suppliers are proving difficult. In particular, they carry a range of Samtec connectors - the 1.27mm pitch type used for JTAG/SWD on ARM boards.

PCB Manufacture

  • OSHPark are one of the early suppliers of cheap prototype PCBs. Quality is fine but delivery can be a little slow. Like many of the current PCB houses, they are easy to deal with.
  • Seeed Studio Fusion offer a comprehensive service including full manufacturing. Costs are reasonable and quality appears to be fine.
  • JLC PCB are a more recent entry in the cheap prototype PCB business. At the time of writing (June 2018) they offere crazy cheap PCBs. For the standard offering, you can get 10 double-sided PCBs for just $2.
  • PCBWAY are another Chinese board house with great prices. Their basic board offering is a little larger than usual at 100mmx100mm. A set of 10 boards in this size would cost (In July 2018) $5 plus $25 shipping to the UK. Delivery should be in less than one week.
  • Mega Electronics Specialise in DIY PCB production with a range of materials of all kinds
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