Sep 122012
 

Over the past few years, I’ve amassed quite the collection of basic electronic components (chips, resistors, etc.), little microcontrollers (Arduinos and Arduino clones), and a few other tiny gadgets (the coolest of which I consider to be this mini WiFi module). With all of these sensitive components and modules, I sought a simple and cost-effective way to store, protect and organize electronic parts. Here is what I’ve found to work.
 

Resistor kit

I used to consider resistors (and possibly capacitors too) the most difficult things in my collection to organize correctly and compactly. Luckily, I’ve discovered a way to not only stock up my collection but also organize the resistors that I already have. This resistor kit: Joe Knows Electronics 1/4W 86 Value 860 Piece Resistor Kit is perfect.

Each resistor is organized into a labeled baggie, and all the bags fit into the pictured box with a resistor code chart on the lid.

Joe Knows Electronics 1/4W 86 Value 860 Piece Resistor Kit
 

Capacitor kit

The same company that released the resistor kit also released this awesome capacitor kit. It’s organized just like the resistor kit, with each value of capacitor in its own little labeled bag. I highly recommend it.
 

 

Jumper wires

The most annoying thing in the world is making your own breadboardable jumper wires. I refuse to do it. Instead, I bought one of these: Elenco 350 Piece Pre-formed Jumper Wire Kit. The wires are the perfect stiffness, and the box keeps the various sizes from running into each other.

Parts organizer

LEDs, diodes, buttons… where do they go? For these (and similar parts), I’ve found this parts organizer: Stanley Consumer Storage 014725 25-Removable Compartment Professional Organizer.

The organizer has individual compartments that can be rearranged, and parts will not slip around (each compartment has a bottom, and when closed, there is very little space between the compartments and the lid). I wouldn’t suggest dropping the organizer, though, even if closed.

I also keep most of my ICs (integrated circuits, or, chips) in this organizer, but a little more care is needed (see below).

I own three of these things, and they are by far my favorite item in this collection. One day, I’ll post pictures of how I have everything situated in the organizers to give you ideas of how to organize your own parts.

 

Anti-static foam

Integrated circuits, microcontrollers, and a lot of other electronic components and modules are sensitive to static electricity. Many parts manufacturers protect their chips with anti-static foam. The leads of the part are pushed into the foam, which is slightly conductive. The best deal on this foam that I’ve been able to find is here: Techni-Stat Foam Conductive 24″ X 36″ X 1/4″ High Density

1/4″ is plenty thick, and two by three feet is much more than it sounds.

To store my integrated circuits, I press their little leads into sections of the foam that are the same size as a compartment in my parts organizer. Multiple layers of foam + chips can be stacked in the same compartment. You can also protect your microcontrollers and other electronic gadgets with leads by pressing them into this foam. I will say, however, that this foam does not have enough give to make storing things like Arduino Nanos simple.

 

Anti-static bags

Where do I store my microcontrollers and similar-sized items? Anti-static bags!

I have three sizes:

The 3 x 5″ size is perfect for storing smallish things like Arduino Unos. Larger boards (and/or those with protruding headers) are best kept in the 4 x 6″ bags. So far I have only needed the 6 x 10″ bags to store cables, but I might use them in the future to store finished projects.

These bags are resealable and reusable. They make it much safer for me to handle my electronics. Just make sure the bags are fully pressed closed, or else they may not block any static.

 

Label maker

Once everything is filed away and in its place, how do I know what is what? For this task, I use the Epson LabelWorks LW-400 Label Printer. Under $30 and with a bunch of options, it’s perfect for labeling my anti-static bags once their contents are safely tucked away. I also use the labels to label the compartments in my parts organizer.

 

Barcode scanner

I’ve actually had this for a while; a USB barcode scanner. Goes well with the label maker above, since the label maker can print barcodes. I also use this to manage my collection of books. At about $20, it’s pretty cheap; in fact, it was the cheapest barcode scanner that actually projects a laser that I found. Most of the cheap ones require you to hold the scanner up directly to the barcode.


 

Grid-It Organizer

Here’s something that I just got recently. It’s not just for electronics per-say, but it is really useful if you want to organize electronic devices such as flashdrives and cables. The best way to tell you about it is to show a picture of it in action:

It’s basically a rigid, flat (no, it doesn’t fold up or zip) organizer with stretchy, grippy straps that criss-cross. They are a variety of sizes and lengths, and to put something in the organizer, you simply lift the strap and slide your item in. The grippiness of the straps aren’t easy to see in the image, but trust me, this thing will hold on to your stuff tight.

What you can’t really see in the picture I posted is that there are tons of other straps behind the items. It’s endlessly configurable. I bought the black one, but I thought the red was easier to see.

Hopefully you enjoy these as much as I do! Please note that I don’t own any of these images; Amazon does.

 Posted by at 1:12 pm

  4 Responses to “How to store, protect and organize electronic parts”

  1. Its nice to see someone else storing their components the way I do — I like the compartments with the handle on them. I have several integrated circuits since I usually buy more than 1 of whatever I need because they’re so cheap, so I decided to search for a better way to organize them now that I have a big enough variety that they’re becoming a hassle to sort through. Luckily, most (if not all) of them are still in their original anti-static packaging, so I think I’m going to compromise between this method of component storage and use the 3-ring binder solution (http://www.instructables.com/id/Ultimate-Parts-Storage/?&sort=ACTIVE&limit=40&offset=40#DISCUSS) for IC management.How do you sort/arrange/compartmentalize your ICs?

    • I actually store ICs in one of those organizers, with anti-static foam lining the compartments. They’d probably be safer in actual anti-static bags, but the trade-off is that I can more easily see what I have. Each compartment is labeled, and if you stack multiple foam trays of ICs in the same compartment, it’s a pretty compact way of storing them. The binder is a great idea, but I don’t think I have enough distinct ICs to justify it.

  2. How do you use the barcode scanner? Do you have some kind of inventory software?

    • Hi John –
      These days I mostly use the barcode scanner when I sell items on Amazon and similar. It’s easier to scan a book than type the ISBN if I’m adding inventory. It would be nice to do some kind of inventorying of my electronic components, but I’ve never set that up.

      Chris

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