Purchasing Tips

These are some recommendations for finding items you might need for your project. For instructions on how to make purchases, see the MAE Purchasing Guidelines.

For additional resources, go to the Engineering Fabrication Laboratory (Bainer 1220) and get a copy of their industrial contact list. It contains many suppliers and services not listed here.

General Advice



  • Davis Ace Hardware
  • Hibbert Lumber Co. (Davis)
  • Home Depot (Woodland, West Sacramento)
  • Blue Collar Supply (Sacramento) sells a variety of metals and other materials. They have a selection of small pieces.


  • McMaster-Carr is a popular supplier with a great interface. They don't always offer the best prices, however, so consider looking for the parts you need locally or with another supplier.
  • Grainger is another large supplier. They have several nearby warehouse locations, so parts can often be obtained relatively quickly.
  • OnlineMetals.com allows you to order small cuts of a variety of metals.
  • SDP/SI (Stock Drive Products/Sterling Instrument) drive systems and components.
  • TAP Plastics supplies several types of plastics, including finished products and stock material. They also carry tools and supplies for making custom molds, etc. They can also fabricate custom parts.


In general, simple electronic parts like passives (resistors, capacitors), discrete components (transistors), and even bare microcontrollers are inexpensive compared to mechanical parts. Always consider ordering several extras in case a part is compromised in some way. Components can be quickly destroyed by accidentally reversing polarity while prototyping, applying heat for too long during soldering, or through electrostatic discharge.

If purchasing online, pay attention to the minimum quantity offered for a part. Cheap components like resistors are often packaged in bulk.

While not very common in ME senior design, you may want to produce a printed circuit board for your project. There are two basic options for getting a board printed:


  • Radio Shack (Davis)
  • Davis Ace Hardware (Davis)
  • Fry's Electronics (Natomas)


  • Digi-Key is a major electronics supplier. Their filtering interface is a bit complicated if you're not familiar with purchasing electronic components, but it is a powerful way to narrow down what you're looking for or even to discover what is available. Make sure to check the "In stock" check box.
  • Mouser is another option similar to Digi-Key.
  • Sparkfun is more hobbyist-oriented and produces kits and easy-to-use modules you won't find on Digi-Key. They provide schematics for everything and offer tutorials for many of their products.
  • Adafruit is similar to Sparkfun with a somewhat different variety of products.
  • Jameco somewhat local (Bay Area) electronics and hobbyist supplier
  • Parallax (Rocklin) supplies a variety of sensors for robotics and mechatronics projects
  • Honeywell has industrial-grade sensors and monitors for a variety of physical phenomena