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I just came across this site: maxim-ic.com and they have free samples of some of there electronics. What's the catch? Has anyone ordered succesfully from them? I know that BTL amplifiers are apparently expensive, and people in the sustainer thread are interested in their use, they have some samples at maxim-ic! I just want to know of any risks in doing business with them for personal use. (By business I mean mooching :D )

Edited by FlashBandit
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Many semiconductor and IC companies have a free sample program. Usually the sample program is for educational institutional use or for commercial prototyping and/or product evaluation for production use.

Using samples for personal projects can be honest (and legal) or dishonest (and possibly illegal). It depends primarily on the company you're dealing with and your behavior.

If the company just says they'll hand out samples to anyone who wants them, and you ask and they're happy to send you some, then you're just fine.

If the company explicitly states that the samples are only available for commercial evaluation purposes, then you're borderline - if you ask for a sample and say that you're not using it for commercial purposes, and they send it to you, then that's probably acceptable - you've acknowledged their policy and the company has chosen to go against it.

If the company has the policy described above and either states that samples are only for commercial evaluation and you just order a sample, or if you give the whole spiel about how you're evaluating this part for use in a production of some large number of products per year, etc. etc., then you're lying, it's dishonest, and it's illegal. I have talked to people who do this, and mostly they come up with all kinds of excuses for why it's ok, but it's not. It's wrong.

As to any risks that you face using a sample program - if you're honest about your purposes, and they send you a sample, there's probably not anything to worry about. If you misrepresent yourself and your reasons for requesting a sample, then you could potentially face legal action - although I doubt it would happen.

Edited by jnewman
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If you misrepresent yourself and your reasons for requesting a sample, then you could potentially face legal action - although I doubt it would happen.

I think this falls under the mantra of "if everyone did it, the whole system would fall apart, so you shouldn't do it" (which, I believe, was said much more eloquently by a famous philosopher-type guy). A lot of engineers get protective about sample programs because we need them sometimes, and we don't want to see them go away because of misuse.

For example, say you get 5 high performance opamps sampled to you for some equalizer pedal you're building. You may have saved yourself $15, but you've probably cost the manufacturer over $100. They're set up to ship large orders, and yours is a special request. Someone has to take the order, someone else fills and packages it, someone else ships it. They usually do follow-up calls later, too. All of that costs money, which the company won't see a return on.

Many engineers turn to the sample programs when they're prototyping a design that may go into production. Maybe you want some fancy chip that the big distributors aren't stocking -- they would be happy to get it for you if you wanted 1000, but they won't get you a handful. So you get a few samples from the manufacturer. If the chip works and your design gets approved for production, you order 1000 from the distributor and everybody wins. If the chip doesn't work in your design, tell the manufacturer why when they do the follow-up call -- they will appreciate the feedback. If your project gets canned, well, that's just one of the risks of doing business. Manufacturers know about this, and they're will to take the risk. Sampling chips to cheap hobbyists, on the other hand, is not a risk -- it's just a loss.

EDIT: Re-reading this post, it sounds a little high-and-mighty. I'm going to leave it anyway because it took a while to write, but a better response might have been simply, "use your judgement when ordering samples." E.g. Can you order the device from a distributor? If so, then you probably should. Otherwise, call the company and tell them honestly what you're doing. Basically, follow jnewman's advice.

Edited by fookgub
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