I've been trying to find a good micro-controller with WiFi and came across ESP32 by espressif. It seems like a good chip, however, when I go to find a bulk purchase, there are very few manufacturers of the chip. Almost all are out of stock or only have a few in stock.

I've also been researching the topic and it seems ESP modules are seen as "hobby chips". If that's true, then what is historically the industry standard for WiFi micro-controllers in products?

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    \$\begingroup\$ No chip is a hobby chip. IC design and wafer foundries are very expensive. Hobbiest dollars simply cannot support them. They are all targeted towards industry. \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Mar 26 at 5:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ So, is there a readily available chip then? It seems ESP32 are out of stock, and as a product, I'm not sure how I can rely on the consistency of their availability. \$\endgroup\$ – Gary Holiday Mar 26 at 5:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DKNguyen It's not a chip as such iirc, but a board/module. Not sure what chips there are underneath the hood. \$\endgroup\$ – Lundin Mar 26 at 7:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ The market leaders are Silabs, Analog Devices and TI. However, the chips from these require a whole lot more out of the developer, no sugar-coated hobbyist libs are available and you are expected to know quite a bit about radio to use them. \$\endgroup\$ – Lundin Mar 26 at 7:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Ok, besides this really being a product recommendation question, and these being explicitly off-topic here: I don't know where you've been looking, but it seems it wasn't the large distributors, so when you say "can't find something" you might need to specify where you've been looking! Couple of thousand in stock of various ESP32 ICs and modules all over the place. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Müller Mar 26 at 9:23

If you're making more than a few thousand of a product (preferably more than a few 10's of thousands) then the manufacturers will engage with you and you will be able to select from hundreds of different options. If you're not, then you're basically limited to whatever digikey (et al) has, which is still a reasonable collection.

Probably any of these will work for you. If you actually are going to make a lot of something, you can choose one and then when you need a lot, just talk to a distributor (probably not digikey).

For example, I see that arrow has 82,000 of the CC3100R11MRGCR ready to deliver to you. If you need more than that, you would talk to TI directly and make an order from their factory. Their lead time is probably something like 10-15 weeks.

Supply chain for manufacturing is a whole team of people in most hardware companies, because getting large quantities of stuff from all over the world to be in one place at the right time is difficult. If you're just talking about being able to make 20 of your board, it's best to stick with digikey.

Edit: I should also point out that these are wifi MCU's, not wifi modules, and so you will have to add your own antenna and do your own certification etc. You may want to stick with this list, but some of these will be WIFI transceivers only, some will have a programmable microcontroller in them. Its up to you which kind you want.


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