Shopping for parts in Shenzhen


The big-with-a-capital-B electronics market across the street from the Hax office. Markets like this are the reason why we came to prototype in Shenzhen.

All the components that you could imagine are for sale in hundreds of overflowing little booths on seven floors. The parts might be laid out like jewelry in glass display cases (in the case of ICs), or heaped up in piles on top of the cases (cables).

Some of them are manufacturers' overruns, some are scavenged from discarded personal electronics, at least one (the one we most wanted) was almost unique. Some of them have a brand-name, but more than a few are fakes.  The biggest names, like Lenovo, offer open display areas with seating and lighting, but these are very much in the minority.

Today we were looking for calipers and a connector built to very particular specs. The parts were there-- everything was there-- it was just a matter of finding them.

We asked (by showing a photo) at the info booth at the entrance for the calipers and were directed to the second floor, where we found them easily. The connector was more difficult. We were looking for a part with a specific profile, and we didn't even know if such a part existed, so first we had to roam on each floor looking for booths selling connectors, then scan these booths to see if they had something that met our specs.

We finally found something in one booth, but the minimim we could buy there was 1,000 pieces. Although the per-unit price was fantastic, we only needed a few, so we decided to keep looking.

Finally we found exactly what we were looking for in a tiny booth across the street! Our initial elation was tempered when the salesperson (who was willing to sell us just a few) could not find any more in stock. We spent the rest of the day trying to locate this part (which had no ID number or markings) on line, without success.

That is the upside and downside of buying from these little parts shops. Tomorrow we'll go to another market and try again.