For those who love to tinker, create and innovate, Arduino micro-controllers are a fascinating place to start your journey, or even continue it. Arduino is the name for the open-source hardware and software project that brings the world of electronics to the masses at a low affordable cost. Multiple different Arduino boards exist, but the foundation device is the Arduino UNO, suitable for beginners and experts alike. The UNO board and its offshoots are all supported by a huge community and support network of worldwide hobbyists.
When buying for your Arduino project you will find a huge range of products online at varying levels of quality and price, it can be quite overwhelming. Having personally purchased a large variety of boards, actuators and sensors from different websites and in-store it has become apparent to buy right the first time. This article covers off on the best places to buy for your Arduino project as you discover its benefits or build on your current ventures. These are my Top 4 of my recommendations!
One of the biggest manufacturers and distributors of electronic parts for Arduino is Adafruit Industries. They offer a massive array of products from starter kits all the way to the Guggenhat, a wearable LED scrolling marquee hat. The benefits of such a large site is the amount of beginner’s information and equipment they offer. Huge deposits of videos and tutorials are available to assist in troubleshooting and development and it features a huge community following. A neat feature is the categorisations for events such as Halloween and cosplay to help you design unique and bizarre outfits.
Product Range – 9/10, Pricing – 8/10, Support – 7/10
- Bare Conductive Paint Pen ($9.95) – Paint your wiring on a variety of surfaces!
- Starter Pack for Arduino ($64.95) – A complete pack for beginners including the Arduino itself, LEDs, switches and a photocell sensor.
The lesser known supplier SainSmart should not be overlooked when buying for your Arduino product. As an actual manufacturer they even produce their own UNO microprocessor at a cost of half the price ($11.45) of a branded Arduino. Their product range is not as extensive as other suppliers, but what they do supply is of a high quality and designed with Arduino projects specifically in mind. Their range also caters to similar electronic products that can be customised for compatibility with Arduino. The communication section has some interesting items including RFID readers for the two major frequency ranges. While they do have a small Wiki for help, it is not as extensive as other companies and sites.
Product Range – 7/10, Pricing – 9/10, Support 6/10
- Ultrasonic Ranging Detector ($3.70) – Provides measurements up to 400cm through ultrasonic sounding, similar to how a bat navigates.
- SainSmart Full Metal Robot Car Chassis Track Tank ($109.99) – The robot body to act as the foundation for your Arduino remote control tank project.
Sparkfun is one of the most extensive online shops I have come across, featuring its own branded gear in addition to Arduino branded items. The range of sensors and actuators they supply is fantastic and a real highlight of this site. In electronic projects the ability to add novel sensors really enhances your overall design. They offer sensors that deliver outputs from fingerprints, soil moisture and even force sensitive resistors. For extremely advanced projects they also sell a dissolved oxygen kit. These items all come in their Sparkfun red, ready to operate with any Arduino project. They offer a great price range and also deliver very quickly to North America and worldwide. Extensive support and learning pages are also a major feature to ensure you are fully conversant with understanding your project. You can even get gift certificates to give to friends or family. This site is definitely worth spending some time on, and where I personally learnt some of the finer details of electronics.
Product Range – 10/10, Pricing – 9/10, Support 9/10
- SparkFun Inventor’s Kit – V3.2 ($99.95) – A great kit for starters to build the fundamentals of Arduino and electronics. Comes with extensive support for learning the basics and all the included sensors/actuators.
- Conductive Thread – 60g (Stainless Steel) ($41.95) – Create links and circuits with a thread. This could include weaving conductive lines into clothing.
Official Arduino Store
The final store in my 4 recommendations is the Arduino store itself. This of course should be the first stop for anyone interested in getting started with Arduino. It’s where I started, having purchased the Starter Kit which includes a book with 15 projects to get you working with Arduino projects. The Arduino shop also offers multiple other books to help you in your learning. Personally, my next purchase will be the book, “Getting Started with RFID”. There aremany other books available including the one titled “Amateur Space”. The selection of boards and shields is also extensive and you can rest assured you are buying right from the company that started it all. They have excellent kits and ready to go projects covering robots to projects for children. One downside is the shipping to North America. Located in Italy, the shipping can take some time, but is well worth the wait. The support offered is also quite extensive with Arduino really kicking off the open source hardware and software phenomenon.
Product Range – 8/10, Pricing – 7/10, Support 9/10
- Textile Perfboard (€11.87) – Flexible material board that you can sew or solder circuitry on.
- TV-B-Gone Kit (€17.50) – I’ll finish on this product because it was my favourite purchase. While it doesn’t involve Arduino specifically it is the prefect mini-project to learn soldering, infrared and more about microprocessors. Plus, it means you can turn off TV sets everywhere you go.