One of the biggest challenges of robotics and DIY hardware is simply finding the right components for the job. You may have cooked up the perfect locomotion system, but obtaining that oddly sized axle bearing or aluminum channel can take up more of your time than the actual design and assembly. Because of this, we’re always on the lookout for good sources of project parts and hardware that can deliver quickly when needed.
SmallParts.com is a source for industrial and lab supplies, as well as prototyping hardware for researchers and developers. They’ve been around for over 40 years, and serve a similar function as McMaster-Carr (who’s site is like engineer porn if you’ve never been there). In an interesting twist, however, Small Parts Inc. was assimilated by the Amazon juggernaut a few years ago, and is therefore tied to many of Amazon’s standard user perks. You can sign-in and purchase using your Amazon account, and if you have Amazon Prime, you get free 2-day shipping, just like on Amazon’s full site. In addition, if you order over $50 of eligible parts, you get the quick shipping for free whether you’re a Prime member or not.
The site is organized into functional categories such as raw materials, fasteners, and tools, so it’s easy to navigate. They also have a “My Projects” feature, which lets you save an inventory list by project, essentially creating a bill of materials. If you need to restock or make more units, you can log-in and purchase the BOM with a couple of clicks. Project inventories are sharable via link or email, or can remain private.
We’ve used SmallParts.com for a few small (heh) orders and have been pleased with their ease-of-use and service. Consensus seems to be that their selection and prices are sometimes inferior to McMaster, so it’s not a be-all end-all solution. However, shipping costs are often a killer on prototype projects, so if you’re a Prime member (free for students) or need more than $50 worth of stuff, Small Parts is a solid option.
Check them out here: SmallParts.com
Do you have other favorite part sources when you’re tackling a new project? Let us know about them in the comments!
Full disclosure: The links in this article contain a referral ID. We like SmallPart’s service, and wouldn’t recommend them if we didn’t. We always strive for honesty in our reviews and recommendations. Any income from the links goes back into EngBlaze to make it a better site. Thanks for your support!