Update on product availability and request for sourcing help

The effects of the recession on Asian electronics suppliers are being felt across the electronics industry, from cell phones to smaller firms like us and Sparkfun. This article explains what the root causes are, but the effect is that you're seeing more and more products going temporarily out of stock from many suppliers as we wait for components. In the case of ArduPilot Mega, which is currently out of stock, Sparkfun is waiting for a shipment of Atmega1280s to come in (ETA not currently known, but probably a matter of a couple weeks. UPDATE: Sparkfun says next week).

Our magnetometer board is also waiting for a shipment of new sensors, which will be arriving at the end of November (the good news is that we got a good deal on them by buying in massive quantities, so the price of the board will be going down).

Most other major products, such as the original ArduPilot board, the ArduPilot Mega IMU shield, ArduIMU and both the MediaTek and uBlox GPS modules are still in stock, albeit with limited inventories (act now!).

One of the components that we're having a lot of trouble sourcing is the 16MB dataflash chip that is used for on-board datalogging on the APM IMU shield. We've managed to find another 300, but at a very high price (around $15 each), so we may have to temporarily increase the price of the board by $10. Around the end of the year, we have been promised access to a larger supply, but at an even higher price!

We really don't want to pass these costs on to you and are looking for a cheaper source. Can anyone here help? The part number is AT45DB161D-SU. Does anyone know where we can get hundreds or more of them at a cost below $8 each? (We've considered other options, such as switching to micro-SD cards, but the production complexity and cost of that is no better. We are, however, willing to consider DIP chips and a socket rather than the current SMD chips)

Views: 356

Comment by passunca on August 27, 2010 at 1:50pm
so that explains why i could not get one from cool-components yesterday here in the uk.

The tough of having a micro-sd card is very interesting.
You would be able to:
- store missions on the card and change cards quickly. would then be able to go to the field with a few missions in the pocket with no laptop.
- log a lot more parameters because your not restricted to the 2 MB.
- upload the flight recordings to the ground station without needing to plug a usb cable.
- groundstation could easily be a mobile phone. Most of the nokias have micro-sd readers.

Please please make that micro-sd version. I my self would be willing to pay extra for that. Come on give us that flexibility!
Comment by Uwe Gartmann on August 27, 2010 at 2:28pm
Ok, a chip regularly available for $8 costs now $15. I agree that higher chip prices increases the price for the complete board. So why wait for weeks to save $7? Switching to SD-Card is a good alternative.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on August 27, 2010 at 2:38pm
The reason that SD-card are problematic are these:

1) The cards and sockets would be more expensive long term than the single-chip solution
2) We'd probably have to put the socket on the bottom of the board, which would make it double-sided. We're not set up to manufacture double-sided boards.
3) We can't read and write to SD-cards in PC format, because FAT16 is a resource pig. So we'd have to read/write in binary format. But if anyone puts one in a PC or Mac, they'll get the request to format it for PC/Mac use. If they do, it won't work with APM anymore and we'll have a tech support nightmare.
4) Different micro-SD cards are of different quality. If people buy one that doesn't work well, that becomes our tech support headache, too.

Comment by Michael Smith on August 28, 2010 at 12:03am
@chris - http://elm-chan.org/fsw/ff/00index_p.html

See what you can do on the assembly/layout/parts sourcing side. 8)
Comment by Andre S on August 28, 2010 at 12:16am
Chris, thanks for sharing. Nice to get this kind of background information rather than just an "item out of stock" message :)
Comment by CheBuzz on August 28, 2010 at 3:30am
I didn't know that FAT was a resource hog. I would have guessed, since FAT16 was finalized in 1987, it should be rather trivial for modern microprocessors. I must confess that I have never done an in-depth analysis of resource usage (though implementation was easy enough in one of my CS classes). Have you actually tried this and know that you don't have enough compute power?

Comment by Jani Hirvinen on August 28, 2010 at 3:47am
And day by day it is getting even more worse... Which is even bigger problem for small companies. Just like my partner who manufactures GPS tracking units. Earlier his lead times to get GPS chips were only 3 months max now it jumped to 6-8 months, which also means that all your money is stuck on products that you don't have. Big players are not affected this so much due they have rather big resources on capital and they can buy products from market, even buy whole market "empty" if they wish.. And this is murder for smaller manufacturers.

Ok even big players can get hurt on this.. Here's an shocking article about this issue from well known news station http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKLNE64N01X20100524
Comment by Muot Vuong on August 28, 2010 at 6:19am
I like the microSD idea but could see the over head Chris mentioned. What about the DOSonChip? http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=8226 and http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=8215. If both logging and mission reading / writing could be done serially, it could be piped to DOSonChip to do the heavy lifting.

Alternatively for logging only. If the logging routine could be modified to log serially, you could probably use Open Log, http://www.sparkfun.com/commerce/product_info.php?products_id=9530, as an add-on.
Comment by Wayne Dancer on August 28, 2010 at 6:38am
I currently have been qualifying a lot of alternate parts for my company due to shortages. I'll keep an eye out for a drop-in equivalent too. It won't be any different than what I am already doing.
Comment by Jack Crossfire on August 28, 2010 at 8:58am
Consumer prices have to go up. It's called quantitative easing. Alternatively you can have houses selling for the price of chips.


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