move on to the next item. Should you
need a larger quantity of a particular
part, inquire to see if additional
quantities are available, and whether
it is a standard stocked item or limited
What to Stock Up On
Because the availability of surplus
comes and goes, you will want to take
advantage of a product offering while
you still can. But that involves buying
things you may not need at the
moment — which could end up being
not needed ever! It’s prudent to
exercise caution in ordering surplus
merchandise that you have no
immediate plans for. I like to limit nonessential purchases to a certain dollar
amount per month or per quarter. I
often use surplus to refill depleted
inventory. This includes basic items
such as wire and switches.
For project-specific purchases –
such as motors and gears – I will
refrain from buying these until I need
them. Yes, this does mean sometimes
losing out on a great opportunity, but
if you’re not careful it’s easy to
over-buy, and end up with a garage
full of components you may never
use. This has happened to me, and I
ended up donating several hundred
pounds of unused inventory to some
local robot user groups and schools.
As surplus electronics often
involves small parts, it is advantageous
to organize your inventory so that you
can find what you need quickly.
Plastic divider drawers sold at home
improvement stores are a good
option. For odd-size items, I use heavy
duty self-sealing plastic bags, and
write down the contents using a thick
felt marker. I then put the filled bags
in shoe boxes. It only takes a moment
to sift through the bags to find just
the part I need.
Of course, the real benefit of
shopping the electronics surplus
outlets is the savings on things you
need right now. When you start a
new project, get into the habit of
checking the surplus traders first. That
way, you’ll save money where you
can. Be realistic in your expectations
and be prepared to deviate from
your original project plans to suit the
materials on sale at the time. For
example, if your robot calls for 2-1/2”
diameter wheels, but you’ve found a
great deal on 2-3/4” ones that can
save you money, consider changing
the specifications to accommodate the
different wheel size.
Following are numerous online
outlets that offer electronics surplus,
either exclusively or as part of a
broader selection. Several have printed
catalogs for offline review, but bear in
mind that because surplus product
comes and goes, you’ll always want to
check the company’s website for the
Bear in mind that many other
types of online resellers such as
robotics specialty stores carry surplus
electronics. These aren’t listed for the
sake of space constraints. The moral:
It pays to study the Web catalogs of
your favorite online retailer to be sure
you’re finding all the best deals.
A-2-Z Solutions, Inc.
A-2-Z Solutions carries new and
surplus electronics. Mostly computer
equipment (PCs, monitors, scanners,
and so forth). Online sales with Web
AE Associates, Inc.
AE Associates carries new and
used electronics, including switches,
connectors, electronic components
(resistors, capacitors, diodes,
transistors, etc.), and test equipment.
Searchable database. Also sells a small
number of compact black and white
and color video cameras. Local store
in Van Nuys, CA; online sales with
All Electronics Corp.
All Electronics is one of the
primary sources in the United States
for new and used robotics components. Prices and selection are good.
Walk-in stores in the Los Angeles area.
Product line includes motors, switches,
discrete components, semiconductors,
LEDs, infrared and CdS sensors,
batteries, LCDs, kits, and much more.
Specifications sheet for many
products are available on the website.
Online store, Web catalog, and
New and surplus merchandise.
Among their product line useful in
robotics are DC and stepper motors,
stepper motor controllers, power
MOSFETs, small CCD video cameras,
and tools. Online sales with Web
American Science & Surplus
AS&S sells surplus of all types,
including some you’d normally find in
an Army/Navy surplus store. But they
also carry motors, gears, batteries,
switches, and some electronics.
Military and industrial surplus,
with a major emphasis on wire of all
types and sizes. Huge selection, but
the retail store is not well organized,
in my opinion. Limited online sales
(only some components listed on
Surplus electronics and
mechanicals. General electronics,
transformers, and “movie props.”
Online store with Web catalog.
Local (St. Paul, Fridley, and St.
Louis Park, MN) electronic and
B.G. Micro is a haven for the
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