Storage Storage for Samples Storage

In the past, I’ve tried several techniques for organizing my small quantities of IC samples (and “purchased samples”). I have enough different ones and each needs so little space individually that I don’t really want to dedicate parts bins to them.

IC samples in different containers

I’ve tried putting them in pockets in a three-ring binder, leaving them in the open shipping carton, and leaving them lying around on my workbench in their packages.

None of these have worked particularly well for me.

Mainframe Backup Tapes

At work, we have a large collection of “3490″ mainframe backup tapes, and they’re kept in large racks without the plastic cases the tapes ship in. In the IT environment, large sets of disks and tapes are referred to as “storage;” so the empty plastic cases and the racks the tapes go in are “storage storage,” right?

We had a few empty tape cases left, which were of no use to us and which I took home. We’ve also retired our mainframe and pruned our backup collection, so we have a number of empty racks and rack cases sitting around. It looked like an opportunity to salvage discarded materials and improve my electronic parts storage.

Tape Packages for Electronics Parts

Stacked tape cases with ICs

Last night I put most of my samples into empty tape cases, and it worked quite well. At Wal-Mart I found some Avery labels that are compatible with #5366 (2/3″ x 3 7/16″, called “File Folder — White”), are ultra-opaque, are supported by the label feature in OpenOffice, and fit nicely onto the approximately 1″ x 4.25″ case spines.

Racks (Or Not)

The cases have ridged edges and stack very nicely, but I was hoping to get them into a rack for easy “random access” to individual boxes.

Data tape case doesn't fit into tape storage rack

Unfortunately <grunt>, the racks <grunt shove> weren’t made to hold the cases <curse shove>, just the tapes <growl>, and the cases don’t fit <sigh resignation>.

Boxed tape cases with ICs

I still have some of the boxes that the tapes originally shipped in, but this isn’t necessarily an improvement over just stacking the cases. They’re still sort of “latched” together in the boxes, and it’s almost more difficult to pry a case out of a full box than to balance a stack of cases whilst removing a lower one.

I’ll keep looking — hopefully there’s a rack out there that fits the cases, that someone doesn’t need any more, that I can save from the landfill, and that I get for free. :-)

10 Responses to “Storage Storage for Samples Storage”

  1. MikeS says:

    You could try cutting down the cardboard box a bit so there is enough room for your fingers to grab the edge of the plastic box.

  2. Keith Neufeld says:

    Mike, it’s not a bad idea, but it doesn’t address the whole problem. The plastic case has mating ridges on the top and bottom so one case won’t slide over another — it makes a tower of them very sturdy. But it also makes it hard to slide one case out of a stack of five in a box.

    Still, that’s the best idea I have so far. :-)

  3. Russ_Hensel says:

    Plastic drawers in cases are great for small parts if you have lots of money and space. I do that for some parts, but now for only the ones I use the most. Just think about how many values of resistors there are.

    New method. There are small envelopes, about 2 in by 3 in, called coin envelopes, easy found at staples or similar shops. Put the parts in and then stand them up ( I have a nice set of drawers divided so three rows of envelopes fit ). Write on the paper ( paper is nice easy to write and erase ) the part number. I often add what the part does 555 Timer, 74L06 Nor gate ( or whatever it is ) Keep in numerical order and it is really easy to find the part. Cheap too.

  4. faustian.spirit says:

    Me again… for DIPs: just cut stiff antistatic foam into slabs that fit upright into parts bins, put label on edge and use the bin like a cardbox.

    For anything SMD with many pins: Cardboard cards (labelled) with a piece of tinfoil glued on, component(s) sellotaped onto it (that might bring in hidden ESD issues though), fit well in between the foam slabs…

    For SMD passives, many pharmacys here carry a small type of glass sample vials (like, 2 inches length, 1/8″ diameter) with plastic stoppers at around 20-30 cents apiece, these are popular with the alternative medicine crowd…. and also fit into parts bins conveniently.

    Depending on the bin size, plain match boxes might also fit in there in an upright fashion, again with an edge label….

  5. [...] Storage Storage for Samples Storage « Keith’s Electronics Blog. [...]

  6. Keith Neufeld says:

    Flight, I like those! They’re way too small (3/4″ square) for my samples, but they’d be great for my SMT passives. Thanks for the tip!

  7. Keith Neufeld says:

    I don’t normally let pingbacks post in the comments (in fact, I never have before), but this one has a great idea in the blog author’s notes — using an old library card catalog for parts storage. I love it!

  8. flight says:

    Did you check out the larger boxes?
    These are the width of three of the little ones.

    There are other sizes out there, but they can get pricey. Allspec.som has several – up to 2 11/16″ x 2 1/4″, only in ESD though $4.58 each.

    I’m still trying to find who manufactures the regular ones, these things are just so damn handy.

    BTW: Thanks for your blog, I’ve been reading it for several years and have always enjoyed your ADHD-friendly approach & interests.

  9. flight says:

    I forgot:

    Those old card catalog cabinets would be pretty cool, but they tend to be expensive from what I’ve seen. A similar approach I’ve wanted to try is an old apothecary cabinet. The drawers are usually 1″-2″ square in front, and 4″ – 12″ deep. They would also work great as a tool chest for files, screwdrivers and the like, but they are harder to find and usually even more expensive. sigh…

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