I’m on a mission to use technology and design in innovative ways to deliver better user experiences. What follows is a collection of resources I'm sharing related to prototyping digital products, environments and services.
Adafruit — This is usually my first stop when looking for a component for a project. Not only does Adafruit have a vast selection, they usually have a very detailed tutorial showing a products use with schematics and sample code. Keep in mind they are locate in New York, so shipping cutoffs can sometimes slow you down.
Digi-Key — When Adafruit or Sparkfun are out of what you need, Digi-Key is a great source. They stock many of the popular items you might need. The site feels 20 years old, but I assume they cater to a B2B audience.
E-Bay — I've been in situations where I need to scale a project and need to find a component as inexpensively as possible. I usually create a proof-of-concept (POC) with parts I acquire in the US, but when I need a hundred or a thousand of something I've had great luck with E-Bay. Asian sellers often have access to the same components and you can received your goods in a few weeks at a great cost savings.
Mouser Electronics — Like Digi-Key, Mouser stocks many popular items from Adafruit and Digi-Key, and has their own huge selection of components. I haven't made too many purchases from Mouser, but I would without hesitation.
RobotShop — What a great name. They actually sell more than just robots and robot components. They have a great selection of wearables, gesture control devices like Leap Motion, and even toys.
Sparkfun Electronics — This site is very "maker" friendly and usually does a good job of providing a tutorials and detailed descriptions of what they sell. I've reached out to their technical support team in the past and I've been really happy with the responses. Sparkfun has a few of their own innovative product lines such as ProtoSnap that are great for educators or someone looking to get up to speed quickly and easily. I've found their order fulfillment and shipping times to be the best in the industry. They are my go to "I need this tomorrow" supplier.
Machines & Tools
Festool — I hate table saws because of kick-back dangers, so I love Festool. My first purchase was their TS 55 track saw and I've never regretted it. I've added dust collection, work table, a router, and two sanders to my list over the years. These are top quality german tools and I enjoy their thoughtful industrial design as much as I enjoy using them.
Formlabs — The maker of the Form 3 SLA printer. I don't own one of these (yet), but I've used them and outsource parts to owners when needed. I'm blown away by the resolution, overhang abilities, and overall quality of these machines.
Glowforge — A highly capable and easy to use desktop laser engraver and cutter. I dislike the fact they they refer to their devices as a desktop printer, but I've learned to ignore that. They once promised a sleek air filter that would let you run the whole setup on your kitchen table, but it seems like the laws of physics had other plans. The company now sells a more traditional air filter that has a much larger footprint, but is said to be very effective.
KC Tool — This is my go-to online tool dealer who specializes in German tools. I use Wera screw drivers and Wiha precision screw drivers in the projects I work on. I'm also a big fan of the Wera wrenches, ratchets and sockets.
Prusa Research — I love Prusa 3d printers and own several. Joeseph Prusa is constantly improving the design, firmware, and software. Printers are sold either assembled or as a kit. I highly recommend the kit form as the assembly process educates you as to how the printer works and removes any fear about tackling repairs and cleanup that might be needed down the road. The company offers excellent support and does their best to provide an upgrade path for owners of earlier printers. Prusa has just entered the SLA market and I look forward to see where this goes.
Shaper Origin — The Shaper Origin is a handheld CNC router that you cut flat materials with precision. The system uses special tape and computer vision to identify its location and make real-time adjustments as you move the machine across the surface.
Ultimaker — This company provides a line of workhorse 3d printers that robust and produce high quality parts. Unlike Prusa, they provide a nice larger scale option in the Ultimaker S5 with a build volume of 330x240x300mm. If your budget allows, Ultimaker 3d printers are an easy choice.
3D Hubs — The Uber of 3d printing. They maintain a network of owners of 3d printer owners and other fabricators who will take on the production of parts for you. My advice for using 3D Hubs is to always override their automatic selection of supplier and choose a supplier yourself based on ratings, equipment, location, and price. Several of my projects were too expensive to make sense if I had simply accepted their recommendation. I spoke to 3D Hubs about this and they defended the practice, saying that they were making the selection based on the best outcome for the end user.
Ponoko — A laser engraving and cutting service with a wide selection of material and great quality. I've been a user of Ponoko since they only had a location in New Zealand and shipping times and costs were a factor. Since then, they've opened a locations around the globe. Ponoko is a great option when you want to try new materials or scale up for production.
Shapeways — High-end commercial 3d printing using a number of techniques and even more materials. Need a part in silver or gold? They can do it. One of the things I like best is that you can upload a design and quickly calculate a cost for a part in different materials. This can serve as a great reality check when thinking through a design.
Adobe XD — This tool has become one of my favorite prototyping tools and I'm excited to see where it is headed in the future. Adobe has encourage developers to extend XD and some of the extensions are amazing. For example, you can systematize naming or generate user avatars on the fly. Adobe is clearly invested in XD and I think learning the product will serve you well in the future.
LiveCode — Are you old enough to remember HyperCard? LiveCode is based on the same language called HyperTalk. This is an almost english scripting language that is very quick and easy to use. LiveCode is a solution if you need to develop a simple cross-platform native application quickly.
Xojo — Another easy to use cross-platform application development tool, Xojo does an excellent job of handling serial communication. I find it useful when needing to interact with other devices like Arduinos over a serial port. Xojo doesn't have the vast examples that the LiveCode community provides, but what is there is accurate and up to date.
Prototype Friendly APIs
Mock API — is a great solution for prototypes or production coding before your eventual API is available. You can perform operations with it using a RESTful interface.
Random User Generator — The name really says it all. When you need to represent fictitious user data in a prototype and you aren't feeling creative, this API can provide the solution. They are part of RandomAPI, a good solution if you want to take your prototype to the next level.
Twilio — Think telephony as a service. Twilio has one of the easiest to use tools and APIs when you need to prototype anything related to voice, telephony, or SMS. Years ago, I built a conferencing solution for Blink that used simple PHP code and saved us thousands of dollars through the years.