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I know this isn't meant to be a marketplace or ad site, but I have some very specific parts that I'm looking for that aren't carried by Arrow, Mouser, DigiKey, etc...the big players. Google searches have come up empty-handed unless I want to buy a shipping container full of them direct from China.

I'm looking for recommendations about perhaps some smaller, specialty online retailers that I don't know about, suggestions for substitutions that may be more readily available, and/or tips on some alternate places to look (e.g., a fuse may be hard to find @ Mouser because every auto repair shop has them...)

One - Is this an appropriate question to EE, and Two - What are some suggestions for phrasing so it doesn't get deleted as soliciting recommendations for commercial ventures?

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No, those types of questions are not appropriate here. They just don't work well with the Q&A format of this site.

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Find the vendor's distributor and/or representative covering your area. Contact them.

Alternate Octopart has a pretty good parts search engine.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If he says he's "looking for them" then "find them" is not really a good answer. \$\endgroup\$ – stevenvh Jul 12 '12 at 5:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BrianCarlton that would be great if I knew a manufacturer. Let's say I'm looking for a .33uF capacitor (or something else in a wierd, nonstandard size/rating/performance spec). Who's the manufacturer? Lots of times I can't find ANYthing. If, however, someone knows of oddsizecapacitors.com and I don't, I'd love to have that information so I can continue my research. When I know a manufacturer, I can at least continue my research, to the point where I have the sales rep contact the last client who bought a 5000pc reel of part X to see if they'd sell me one. BTW, they shipped it to me for free. \$\endgroup\$ – dwwilson66 Jul 12 '12 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @dwwilson66 You could use this forum to ask for tips on using a standard part in place of the 0.33uF cap or whatever weird part to get the same functionality. Generally, if you can't find a specific part there's a good reason for it. \$\endgroup\$ – ACD Apr 8 '15 at 16:56

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