diy partial-kit frustration rant

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DanaFo
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diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by DanaFo » Thu Jan 07, 2021 12:02 pm

You might think this is going to be a rant about assembly difficulty or soldering issues, maybe debugging?

Nope.

My biggest issue as a beginner/intermediate is actually finding pcbs/panels in stock followed by completely insane bill of materials that list non-existent parts, especially material ones like rotary switches or even pots.

I had a great experience sourcing a couple of Frequency Central builds, literally my first foray into diy (outside of guitar pedals) - it only required a couple of stores, the parts were standard and generally easy to find with helpful substitutions noted in the manual. I was a little miffed the panels were not mint but I think I can buff that out.

So that gave me some confidence to keep going the same route, partial kits seemed like a decent cost savings and it was kind of fun learning about components this way.

Then I spent 2 hours yesterday just trying to find in-stock kits on ai modular and synth cube (and thonk), and when I did find them it took me more hours to discover that the parts required were spread over 4-6 different vendors, were no longer stocked/obsolete and almost every kit needed parts that weren't available literally ANYWHERE. I'm able to maneuver component subs pretty well now but I'm not going to start changing mechanical components in case I screw up the panel fitting.

So yeah, I think I'm going to stick to full kits. Thonk was kind enough to switch my befaco even vco panel/pcb orders to full kits after part of the above nightmare brought me to my senses.

If anyone has any advice or guidance on how to strategize partial kit building and sourcing, I'd love to hear it!

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by pjbulls » Thu Jan 07, 2021 2:06 pm

I guess it really depends on what you have to source yourself. Jelly bean parts like resistors, capacitors and non-critical op-amps, jacks and potentiometers shouldn't be much of a problem and are quite common across modules. Some kind of FET that went out of production in 1980, an IC with a Cyrillic name or a 4P3T rotary switch? Yeah, that'd better come with the kit.

The EvenVCO is actually quite decent in this regard since it uses a modern platinum tempco (though it definitely doesn't have that in common with many other VCO designs). I tend to make my own versions of published circuits, in that way you can swap parts for ones you know/already have.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by DanaFo » Thu Jan 07, 2021 2:19 pm

pjbulls wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 2:06 pm
I guess it really depends on what you have to source yourself. Jelly bean parts like resistors, capacitors and non-critical op-amps, jacks and potentiometers shouldn't be much of a problem and are quite common across modules. Some kind of FET that went out of production in 1980, an IC with a Cyrillic name or a 4P3T rotary switch? Yeah, that'd better come with the kit.

The EvenVCO is actually quite decent in this regard since it uses a modern platinum tempco (though it definitely doesn't have that in common with many other VCO designs). I tend to make my own versions of published circuits, in that way you can swap parts for ones you know/already have.
yeah I wish I was at the level where I could interpret schematics so I could riff on things intelligently, maybe in a few years ;)

The main issue of issues here was a specific rotary switch that I could not find an equivalent fit outside of thonk and befaco's shops, I tried tayda, small bear, mouser, digikey and everything else was bigger from the specs. Meanwhile frequency central uses very standard rotary switches where I could easily find 2-3 sources. Ah well!

noobyist
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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by noobyist » Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:49 pm

Try octopart, a good tool to source rare components
https://octopart.com/

noobyist
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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by noobyist » Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:58 pm

And maybe UTSource for more rare parts (never tried them)
https://www.utsource.net/

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by GreenPiece » Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:01 pm

Very early in my DIY journey so posting to keep up with the advice here. Kudos friend.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by abelovesfun » Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:16 pm

DanaFo wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 12:02 pm
You might think this is going to be a rant about assembly difficulty or soldering issues, maybe debugging?

Nope.

My biggest issue as a beginner/intermediate is actually finding pcbs/panels in stock followed by completely insane bill of materials that list non-existent parts, especially material ones like rotary switches or even pots.

I had a great experience sourcing a couple of Frequency Central builds, literally my first foray into diy (outside of guitar pedals) - it only required a couple of stores, the parts were standard and generally easy to find with helpful substitutions noted in the manual. I was a little miffed the panels were not mint but I think I can buff that out.

So that gave me some confidence to keep going the same route, partial kits seemed like a decent cost savings and it was kind of fun learning about components this way.

Then I spent 2 hours yesterday just trying to find in-stock kits on ai modular and synth cube (and thonk), and when I did find them it took me more hours to discover that the parts required were spread over 4-6 different vendors, were no longer stocked/obsolete and almost every kit needed parts that weren't available literally ANYWHERE. I'm able to maneuver component subs pretty well now but I'm not going to start changing mechanical components in case I screw up the panel fitting.

So yeah, I think I'm going to stick to full kits. Thonk was kind enough to switch my befaco even vco panel/pcb orders to full kits after part of the above nightmare brought me to my senses.

If anyone has any advice or guidance on how to strategize partial kit building and sourcing, I'd love to hear it!
I feel you. I try to make it so that anything you can't get on Tayda you can get from me directly, so when you buy a PCB/Panel, you only have two carts: mine and Tayda. Sorry you had frustration with DIY!
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DanaFo
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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by DanaFo » Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:20 pm

noobyist wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 3:49 pm
Try octopart, a good tool to source rare components
https://octopart.com/
Cool, bookmarked, thanks!
abelovesfun wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:16 pm
DanaFo wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 12:02 pm


If anyone has any advice or guidance on how to strategize partial kit building and sourcing, I'd love to hear it!
I feel you. I try to make it so that anything you can't get on Tayda you can get from me directly, so when you buy a PCB/Panel, you only have two carts: mine and Tayda. Sorry you had frustration with DIY!
Nice, I have a few of your modules on my build list, I appreciate killing some of the pain!

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JanneI
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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by JanneI » Thu Jan 07, 2021 4:46 pm

The other side of the coin is that there's no way for the designer to know what parts are going to end up obsolete. I'm pretty sure that none of the diy kit designers are deliberately making their BOMs hard to source. It's just that there are SO MANY things to consider while designing a module, so at some point, you need to compromise with your component choices and sometimes this leads to problems with sourcing them. One solution is to buy 1000-10000pcs of that component (or whatever is the minimum amount for the manufacturer) and sell them with the PCB/kit. This can be a pretty costly business decision, and in the worst-case lead to a business shutdown.

I feel your frustration, I wrote this just to shine a light on the other side of the coin.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by devinw1 » Thu Jan 07, 2021 5:35 pm

Yes, let's try to remember that while Mouser is happy to sell us 5 of a part, they also sell 100,000 of something to big time OEMs. And the supply/demand dynamic of electronic components is driven by big movers and shakers in the consumer electronics market (and aerospace and military and some others), not by people building their own synthesizers.

Almost every time I build a BOM on Mouser for one of my modules, it's only a matter of months before Mouser has sold out of something which is pretty white-bread and will have to be subbed. This is just the nature of DIY. So yeah, just something to think about. I try REALLY hard to not source with weird, hard to get stuff, but it's impossible to just make it 100% plug and play especially as time elapses after the design date. If you need 100% plug and play all the time, you gotta just buy full kits all the time I think (and hope they don't screw up in bagging the kit...which totally never happens...j/k).

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by discomicke » Thu Jan 07, 2021 5:44 pm

For some builds the time spent on sourcing exceeds the time spent on building.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by DanaFo » Thu Jan 07, 2021 6:28 pm

discomicke wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 5:44 pm
For some builds the time spent on sourcing exceeds the time spent on building.
This has been the case for everything I have built so far lol, but that's ok if I get everything and it works.

Yes I totally understand BoM'ing as a designer is somewhat of a crapshoot. As long as there's recourse for returning unbuildable pcb/panel sets. I don't expect anyone to revise their module builds but it's not the worst idea to re-enter the bom every couple of months to see how the stock looks.

I'm kind of surprised there isn't a parts-buying co-op for designers so they can flex a little more buying muscle and standardize certain aspects of module building.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by infinitemachinery » Thu Jan 07, 2021 6:30 pm

You could also buy full kits with no self sourcing of parts.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by Randy » Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:11 pm

Check out PM Foundations on Tindie. None of the kits require difficult to get parts, even the Oberheim tribute stuff.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by Bartimaeus » Thu Jan 07, 2021 10:34 pm

in my experience, a lot of the pcb/panel sets that require obsolete parts are just... older. and you can't really blame the designer if the parts they selected have become obsolete. many of the modules i built just five years ago require substitutions now.

if you want to avoid this without resorting entirely to kits, i'd suggest sticking with a single manufacturer for a set of builds, and only building their recently released designs. there's very little overlap between a Frequency Central through-hole design and an ST Modular surface-mount design. but if you wanted to build five ST modules, you'll find they all use mostly the same parts from the same suppliers.

now, long term the best option is to learn how to read datasheets, learn what values matter and which can be ignored, and to find equivalent parts from the vendor you're using. for mechanical stuff, you can still see if a replacement will fit with the datasheet diagrams. there's a big learning curve, but depending on your desire to know how modules really work it can be worthwhile. plus it can save you a lot on shipping.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by KSS » Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:41 am

Umm, yeah. So. 1st world problems. Modern 1st world problem, at that.

When DIY entitlement wasn't so high, and before this led to parallel PCB expectation with no flying wires, a rotary switch would be dead easy to sub. As would jacks, toggles, pots and so on. Still is, by the way. Just use longer standoffs and flying wires to all the panel parts.

You want a paint-by-numbers, then you get what you asked for.

Another part of this to watch out for -especially considering the *low* level of real issue you've experienced so far- is that some of the designs being sold as panel-PCB were designed and BOM'd a *long* <--really long!- time ago.

And some of those *did* originally come with the rare or hard to find parts. When you build a design 5-20 or more years old, it's quite expected it may have difficult to source components. Best include a dive into the module's back story -before purchase- or this one's going to get you.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by JanneI » Fri Jan 08, 2021 3:34 am

DanaFo wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 6:28 pm
discomicke wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 5:44 pm
For some builds the time spent on sourcing exceeds the time spent on building.
..but it's not the worst idea to re-enter the BOM every couple of months to see how the stock looks.
Hmm.. You all realize the fact that it takes the same amount of time for the builder and the designer to go through the BOM and check if some of the parts are non-stock or obsolete?

Do you want the designers to spend their time designing new modules or maintaining the BOMs (= pre-made mouser carts) or could that perhaps be part of the DIY experience as a customer?

I'm not trying to pick a fight, but please, try to do e.g. simple multi-module yourself with the level of documentation you'd want as a customer if you can't figure out how time-consuming documentation etc really is. I did and shared the first Mouser cart for Black Corporations Deckard's Dream based on the manufacturer codes on the BOM and it took me 3 hours to finish.

...and BTW, the majority of the time spend in designing circuits is sourcing parts and reading datasheets. Like others said before, it really doesn't get much easier to start an S-DIY hobby than full sourced kits with no wiring. After this it's up to you to decide if you like it that much that you're willing to learn the skills needed to "go further than that".

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by synthetek » Fri Jan 08, 2021 4:06 am

DanaFo wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 2:19 pm

The main issue of issues here was a specific rotary switch that I could not find an equivalent fit outside of thonk and befaco's shops, I tried tayda, small bear, mouser, digikey
Befaco tends to use some pots and other stuff that no one else uses for befaco I would suggest full kits but it's usually not as big of an issue with other brands.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by nigel » Fri Jan 08, 2021 8:59 am

Reading the parts list to discover these problems is simply one of the new skills that you have to learn when moving from complete kits. (And I don't think that's obvious when you start - I haven't seen any instructions that begin with "make sure you can still find all these bits".) Like any other skill, it takes a while, and your early attempts will be full of mistakes.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by DanaFo » Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:16 pm

JanneI wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 3:34 am
DanaFo wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 6:28 pm
discomicke wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 5:44 pm
For some builds the time spent on sourcing exceeds the time spent on building.
..but it's not the worst idea to re-enter the BOM every couple of months to see how the stock looks.
Hmm.. You all realize the fact that it takes the same amount of time for the builder and the designer to go through the BOM and check if some of the parts are non-stock or obsolete?

Do you want the designers to spend their time designing new modules or maintaining the BOMs (= pre-made mouser carts) or could that perhaps be part of the DIY experience as a customer?

I'm not trying to pick a fight, but please, try to do e.g. simple multi-module yourself with the level of documentation you'd want as a customer if you can't figure out how time-consuming documentation etc really is. I did and shared the first Mouser cart for Black Corporations Deckard's Dream based on the manufacturer codes on the BOM and it took me 3 hours to finish.

...and BTW, the majority of the time spend in designing circuits is sourcing parts and reading datasheets. Like others said before, it really doesn't get much easier to start an S-DIY hobby than full sourced kits with no wiring. After this it's up to you to decide if you like it that much that you're willing to learn the skills needed to "go further than that".
dude, if I can enter an existing bom into mouser and see where it highlights obvious issues in a few seconds then so can the designer

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by DanaFo » Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:17 pm

nigel wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 8:59 am
Reading the parts list to discover these problems is simply one of the new skills that you have to learn when moving from complete kits. (And I don't think that's obvious when you start - I haven't seen any instructions that begin with "make sure you can still find all these bits".) Like any other skill, it takes a while, and your early attempts will be full of mistakes.
yep lol, what sucks is every mistake is a 15 dollar postal charge + import in canada

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by DanaFo » Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:22 pm

I'm sensing some gatekeeping posts coming into the thread and I'm going to put it bluntly:

If you want your community to expand and encourage people to get into DIY and amateur engineering then make it a safe place to fail and grow. More people will make more money and eurorack will continue to evolve. I'm not learning any new skills by navigating obsolete BOMs because the cliff is so damn high and the time requirement is too great for a HOBBYIST. I'm not a pro designer and I'm not an engineer, I need small hills to climb and build confidence.

If you want to circle jerk cryptic IC values with your fellow gatekeepers then keep calling me a 1st world paint by numbers noob.

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by DanaFo » Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:25 pm

Randy wrote:
Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:11 pm
Check out PM Foundations on Tindie. None of the kits require difficult to get parts, even the Oberheim tribute stuff.
This looks cool! Thanks!

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by devinw1 » Fri Jan 08, 2021 1:27 pm

DanaFo wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:16 pm

dude, if I can enter an existing bom into mouser and see where it highlights obvious issues in a few seconds then so can the designer
But then the question is, how often should they do this? Like I've said, sometimes it's a matter of days before something goes out of stock at Mouser when they had 10,000 of them the day before. Doing a sweep through Mouser, finding a sub, updating the spreadsheet, and updating the website takes me about 30 minutes miniumum. I definitely can't do that for multiple modules every day, probably not every week. Maybe bi-annually would be reasonable?

Not trying to fan any more flames or start fights btw! It would be nice to align expectations of the DIY builder community with designers limitations. :tu:

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Re: diy partial-kit frustration rant

Post by htor » Fri Jan 08, 2021 1:57 pm

DanaFo wrote:
Fri Jan 08, 2021 12:22 pm
I'm sensing some gatekeeping posts coming into the thread and I'm going to put it bluntly:

If you want your community to expand and encourage people to get into DIY and amateur engineering then make it a safe place to fail and grow. More people will make more money and eurorack will continue to evolve. I'm not learning any new skills by navigating obsolete BOMs because the cliff is so damn high and the time requirement is too great for a HOBBYIST. I'm not a pro designer and I'm not an engineer, I need small hills to climb and build confidence.

If you want to circle jerk cryptic IC values with your fellow gatekeepers then keep calling me a 1st world paint by numbers noob.
i feel learning electronics is an exercise in patience. not even regarding soldering and physical tasks but reading datasheets, digging for components and slowly gathering an overview over what's old and what's new in this ever changing landscape. if you don't like that part you always have the option of bying the whole kit.

regarding obsolete BOMs. it's not a simple as replacing old components in the BOM with newer components based on their datasheet alone. for some modules the designer will likely have to build and test out the module with the newer components. depending on the module, this can be a lot of work.

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