The Shenzhen Electronic Market is world famous, and rightly so. Spread across at least 12 buildings within a couple blocks, it is a gigantic mecca for all things electronic. Imagine roughly 4 blocks of buildings; they’re all banks and office buildings that are very tall, but the first 3-6 floors are part of the electronics market. On the first floor of each building is bare components. Any component you can think of. There are booths for enclosures, SMD parts, DIP parts, booths that specialize in relays or motors or power supplies. There are connectors booths and LED booths. There are booths for assembly tools like solder irons, multimeters, solder, wire, etc. Some of the booths are full of reclaimed parts, with solder still visible on leads and people in the process of reclaiming parts. Some of the booths are fronts for much larger companies, and their displays hide the fact that they have factories and large distribution chains behind them. Many of the booths are filled to the brim with bags of components or reels. Along the outer edge of the market are larger shops full of reels, and often these larger shops will supply to the booths. One could go up to any booth and start asking for components, and if they don’t have them, they know who will and will have a runner go get it.
The second floor is usually more of the same. Sometimes they have more advanced or specialized components. One building had a second floor composed entirely of laptop parts; screens, motherboards, batteries, keyboards. A different building had a second floor full of microprocessors. On the rest of the floors is consumer electronics. There are booths for individual brands, or booths that have a variety. If you think of the exhibit floor of a conference, it’s much like that. Brand booths are nicer and larger and have staff in matching shirts. In one of the buildings the whole 6th floor was dedicated to LED signs and manufacturers.
It’s easy to get lost in the buildings and wander around for hours, and after a while it becomes apparent that they’re all hawking very similar, if not the same, stuff. I don’t know how many booths I passed that had the same connector components displayed, or the multitude of booths dedicated to showing the same LED flashlights and light bulbs.
Bob Baddeley is a software/hardware engineer from the USA. In 2012 he was chosen for a Chinese hardware startup accelerator to work on his product, the Portable Electronic Scoreboard. His articles can be found on his blog www.engineerinshenzhen.com.