Free Electronics Samples

This page is dedicated to listing companies that I know of that offer free sample products and providing links and instructions of how to request them.  First of all, basic rules of thumb.  Above all, don't be greedy.  If you need one chip for your project, go ahead and order 2 or 3 to have backups, but don't order a dozen samples that you don't need.  These companies that give free samples to students and hobbyists aren't likely to make much if any money off of those samples (as opposed to samples given to industry employees, in order to promote sales), so don't ruin it for the rest of us by making them regret giving out samples.  Second, free samples are for you to use, not to sell.  Seriously, Wheaton's Law.  I've received samples of chips with retail value of upwards of $40 a piece that my project budget wouldn't have been able to afford, which is awesome, but people who order samples and then sell them on Ebay have a space in Shepherd Book's special place right next to people who talk in the theater...

Another thing to consider is that just because a company offers free samples of their products doesn't necessarily mean that they will give free samples to you.  This is because there are 3 main types of people who can receive samples, depending on a specific company's policies.  First of all is industry professionals.  Companies offer free sample products to industry professionals in the hopes that those samples will get incorporated into a production design that will be sold in large quantities, resulting in a large sale of those sample parts.  It's a great way for chip manufacturers to make huge bulk sales in industry.  Some companies ONLY provide samples for this purpose, and as a hobbyist, you won't qualify.  Another common group to qualify for free samples is students.  Companies like for tech schools to teach how to use their chips, and they like to cater to students, in the hope that those students will go into industry and choose to use their chips, again, resulting in large bulk sales.  The neat thing here is that companies that will give samples to students tend to be more lax about their samples.  Typically, all you need is to use your .edu email address in the sample request in order to qualify.  Also, if you're a student, use your school's name in the "Company" field that is usually required on the sample request form.  Third, some companies will give samples to anyone just for the asking.  If you are a student, it's still a good idea to use your student email and school name.

Ok, now for links.  I have personally received samples from all of these companies as a college student (last updated 2012-10-25):

Adafruit maintains a similar list here, but I haven't personally gotten samples from all of them.  If I do successfully order samples from any of the sites listed there, I'll add them to this page as well.

Atmel
(AVR microcontrollers)

Microchip
(PIC microcontrollers, Flash memory, discrete logic)
Microchip Samples

Texas Instruments
(discrete logic, microcontrollers, USB device controllers)
Navigate to the product page for the part you wish to sample and scroll about halfway down the page to the section titled Sample & Buy.  If there are samples available for that part, there will be a button to order samples.

Micron
(various memory types)

Ramtron
(F-RAM non-volatile memory)

Samtec
(physical connectors, headers, card edge sockets)
Note to any Oregon Tech students:  Any Samtec samples ordered by OIT students will be mailed to Ralph Carestia in the CSET department, due to an agreement between Samtec and Oregon Tech, so you'll have to pick them up from him downstairs in Purvine Hall.

Molex
(physical connectors, cable jacks, headers, card edge sockets)