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  • EEVblog #126 – The Free Sample Fallacy

    Posted on November 10th, 2010 EEVblog 11 comments

    Why free chip samples are NOT always a good thing. Will they cost you more in the long run?

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    • http://hackedgadgets.com Alan Parekh

      They are great for the hobbyist though who just wants to make one project and doesn’t have a need for quick delivery. I guess these days you probably have to stretch the truth and say that you work for XYG Engineering and have an anticipated need for 10K parts per year if it is selected etc.

      I remember back in the day when I was in college all it took to get all the parts and free thick data books under the sun was a phone call.

      I wish we had free shipping for small parts here in Canada… Mouser currently only ships for free on orders over $200.

    • CJ

      I will always remember going to a electronics trade show and getting free samples from a famous switch company. Talking with the factory sales rep he suggested not to use the switch in live circuits, basically they can not guarantee the rating or if the switch would even work. Only use it for dimensional measurements only. It makes sense, who knows where sample stock comes from, its been banged around, missed marked, rejects or any number of things. Also get parts from a reputable dealer like mouser, digikey, etc. I just bought some chips on ebay from china and they were slugs/counterfeit, didn’t work.

    • Dan

      I live over in NZ, and we get our farnell (I mean element14) parts from Australia. The shipping is only free on orders over $75NZD, unless you buy from RS electronics.

      For the first time, I have agreed with almost none of what you said. As a student, getting samples saves me having to hand out $10 or so for a part that might not even do what I want. I have a large collection of passives and active parts, so only sample ICs. It’s great to be able to get a free obscure MCU for a one off project. For example, a friend get a PIC32 from microchip for free instead of paying $30 a chip!

      From a large design (1000k units), I can still see the point in a sample. If you are a PIC developer with no experience in freescale, perhaps you want to try the part you are designing for to find the pitfalls. Although I can see where you are coming from with the “They’re only $2, stop being a tight ass!”. Not all chips are this cheap, and although you might only save $10 in the short run, after a couple of years you might save $200 in inappropriate parts. For a large company, no big deal, but for a student, that $200 can be good to have.

      Cheers,

      Dan

    • Michael Thompson

      At the hobbyist level this DOES work.

      Years and years ago I attained access to various technical expos and garnered a wealth of great experience BS-ing with reps and LOTS of really great parts.
      -and a ton of useless waste
      -and months of calls from sales folks
      -and junk mail that continues -10- years down the line. -no BS there kids. I STILL get it.

      It would indeed be madness to consider this technique for anything serious for the very reasons given in the blog entry.

    • blackfin

      I partially agree, however I do appriciate the free samples supplied by Texas Instruments. If you look closer you will see that they are actually shipped by Digi-key. Free online sampling is a good thing, since it avoids the nasty questions asked by distributors :-)

    • http://starlino.com/ starlino

      I have to disagree with Dave. Free samples are great for anyone on a modest budget. If your project requires testing several parts – the shipping charges, component costs might add up.

      I also disagree with other commenter –
      you don’t have to pretend you are a big company to get samples. Be honest tell them about your project and how enthusiastic you are about it – you’ll get it.
      Good companies understand that hobbyists and students are future engineers, what they learn/use now can determine what part will be in the next iPhone or Wii , or other successful device. People who created Apple computer, Google, Facebook where all simple young people , students, enthusiast not corporate whales.

      However one thing to realise is that not all “FREE” is actually FREE. The greatest caveat/cost of free sample is probably the TIME it takes you to test / learn the new parts. With today’s competition you’re actually doing the manufacturer a favor for testing their parts (if you understand the value your time).

      • http://www.eevblog.com EEVblog

        However one thing to realise is that not all

    • http://www.filmarinunti.info.ro Boangiu George

      wow, that is awesome dude ! :))

    • denz

      I’ve had good experiences with samples. Not from obscure Chinese sellers, but i.e. TI and Analog Devices give pretty good responses, on their “why do you want these for” forms you can fill in “school project” or something like that. And, delivery times are good. About the same as Farnell’s, about 1 to 3 working days (the last probably because “normal” mail (TNT) doesn’t deliver on mondays).

      By the way, I live in the Netherlands.


      Alex.

    • vk6zgo

      I agree,

      Back in the Dreamtime,I worked for a large

      Communications/Broadcasting organisation

      which had its own development lab, which

      produced a lot of equipment which went into

      service in the field.

      It would seem that one of the “ginger beers”

      had an”in” with a couple of component

      manufacturers/importers.

      The result was the use of components we had

      never heard of (Neither had RS or any of

      the other normal suppliers).

      Most of the time,this was only a nuisance,as

      a lot of parts were in non critical

      applications,& could be replaced by “normal”

      components,but in one unit,they used a lot of

      Siemens optocouplers,in normal 6 pin DIL

      packages,like everybody else uses,but with a

      totally different pinout!

      Their characteristics were not critical, but

      we were stuck with either waiting for a

      special order to come through, modifying the

      PCB,or making “piggyback”assemblies to plug

      into the existing sockets.

      We had many unkind remarks to make about that

      particular engineer!

      The moral is, if you don’t want Techs to burn

      an effigy of you, use commonly available

      parts.

      I know it’s “your baby”, & it’s perfect, &

      will never fail, but sorry, it will,& if it

      is easy to fix,it will get a good

      reputation,if not,its (& your companies)

      name will be MUD!

      cheers,VK6ZGO

    • mike c

      Back in 1993, I doubled the video RAM in my Macintosh 2 by ordering up 8 sample DIP chips. In the end, the estimated usage of 8,000 chips a year fell through, and I only used those 8 to upgrade my own computer.