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Has many of you acquired used parts (motors, expensive IC chips, sensors, actuators, etc.) from the dumpsters, recycling, or trash and used them for your projects? How did you feel benefited from such choices, on top of saving the environment, despite the challenges of finding the true specifications?

Thanks in advance for the feedback!

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    \$\begingroup\$ This may make sense as a community wiki. This is up to you stanigator. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Nov 19, 2010 at 5:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know how to decide whether this should be a community wiki though. \$\endgroup\$
    – stanigator
    Nov 19, 2010 at 5:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ EPE Magazine has a nice column about recycling all sort of electronic devices... \$\endgroup\$
    – avra
    Nov 19, 2010 at 7:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @stanigator, if we expect it to be an ongoing question where one answer will not be correct and users will read answers in order of community votes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Nov 19, 2010 at 17:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk: I don't know how to make it a community wiki though. Can you help? \$\endgroup\$
    – stanigator
    Nov 20, 2010 at 0:55

7 Answers 7

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I wish I didn't think that was a waste of time. I have a large collection of scavenged parts, but it's rare that I actually use them.

Also, as long as I'm willing to plan ahead a few days, the collective warehouse of Digikey, Mouser, Sparkfun, and so forth will give me what I need for just a few minutes of engineering salary.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This. Oh god this... \$\endgroup\$ Nov 19, 2010 at 6:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's okay to keep things, but you also have to know when to throw it away. I typically keep transformer blocks from just about anything (you never know when you need 12 VDC from AC mains), but recently I purged a massive amount of waste electronics. Sometimes, scavenging through everything you have to find one part is a bit like looking through LEGOs. You know what you are looking for, you know that you have it, but you'll never find it. I suggest buying a resistor and capacitor set off of eBay, and you'll never have to keep "junk" electronics and makes life easier. \$\endgroup\$
    – mjcarroll
    Nov 19, 2010 at 8:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mjcarroll, I agree. @pingswept, the cost of mouser is significantly outweighed in my case by saving 2 hours. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Nov 19, 2010 at 17:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Salvaging ICs is very dubious; the only thing I might consider ripping out are very large, expensive passives (screw/snap terminals), or high power transformers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nick T
    Nov 19, 2010 at 17:42
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I'm very much a novice with electronics with a background in computer science. Just like I was fascinated by "tearing apart" open-source libraries and tweaking and poking (even if I didn't understand much originally) I've really enjoyed doing the same with old electronics. It's fun! Sites like Hack a Day often have projects using some interesting recycled parts and I love that I can actually try this myself without buying a bunch of components.

I can definitely say that I would not have gotten involved with electronics if I hadn't had the opportunity to do this with "junk" that no one wanted.

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For a lot of amateur radio operators, the "Junk Box" is their primary source of supply. I've kept old dead computer power supplies and the like specifically for their parts. Sometimes it's a pain to do, but it's great for non-critical specs such as power supply caps and heat sinks.

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The dumpsters around my old university were always great value... I used a bunch of brand new relays found in there, coax cable, banana leads, and sold two brand new Macbook Pro restore DVDs for $200 on eBay which weren't removed from the computer box found in the bin.

However at the moment there is so much ewaste floating around, you can /almost/ get what you want for some things. There is a kit which turns an ATX power supply into a nice simple bench PSU, many old computers on the street still have working PSU for this purpose.

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try

http://www.opencircuits.com/Free_From_Salvage

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As an amateur radio operator, removing components from old pcbs is one of my favorite ways of building up my junk box. Always good to have some stuff on hand. Here's some hints:

Using hot air gun.

An Instructable.

Another "hot air" system.

Try not to burn the house down or breath too much solder smoke.

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Although not strictly electronics, all except two of my computers (I have about 7 but not all on at once!) were given to me by people who didn't want to remove the virus or fix Windows (hint: the fix was to install Ubuntu.) The only two computers I've ever bought were a media PC and a laptop.

For hardware I tend to buy components. But I did manage to salvage some big capacitors from a UPS, as well as the two lead acid batteries.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ When my friends have a virus I normally help them fix it. I guess I could just take it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Nov 19, 2010 at 17:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kortuk They just give them to me, telling me they've already upgraded or are going to get a new computer anyway. Sometimes I get them because they are just a few years old and "getting slow", even though I tell them it's an easy fix: usually a reinstall or a cleanup of Windows. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thomas O
    Nov 19, 2010 at 18:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Their loss. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kortuk
    Nov 19, 2010 at 20:32

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