Protoype Parts Sourcing Problems; Scientific Equipment Suppliers in Hong Kong

We are having a difficult time securing scientific glassware for our proof of concept prototype we are building. It seems that scientific supply companies in Hong Kong have absolutely no interest in working with small companies.

“I knew that my passion lay in experimental science way way back,” says Douglas Osheroff, who shared the 1996 Nobel prize for his research on superfluidity in a isotope of helium. “When I was in high school as soon as my mother would trust me with her car I drove up to Seattle, the nearest big city, to visit the medical supply houses there. I told them I wanted to build an X-ray machine for a science project. I came home with a carload of stuff – it was very easy for me to put this thing together – and soon I was X-raying everything.”

Of the three that we located, one was courteous in telling us they didn’t have the supplies but could order them (it would take 2 months for delivery) after we filled in some ridiculous amount of paperwork including corporate banking information. The second company, after being rebuffed by the person at the front desk, followed by several phone calls and emails, replied via email and told us they don’t have any supplies (even though their cataloug stated otherwise). The third, well the third deserves it’s own post. We managed to find the actual office location and visit. One of their salespeople asked what we wanted, then disappeared. After about 20 minutes of waiting we realized he wasn’t coming back. I wandered around the office searching for him,  when I found him he pretended he didn’t know who we were. Later he got angry we weren’t planning to spending enough money, threw his pen across the room, snatched the samples off the table, and ran off. So we left.

It may just be my bad luck, but it appears that if you are not connected to a university or a large company, and thus placing large or regular orders, you’re just not worth their trouble. This isn’t good for the non-IT/science side of tech startups.

The items we need are:

  • quartz tubes (8mm ID)
  • Pyrex flasks in various sizes (between 200 to 500ml)
  • Quarts condensers
  • stands and brackets
  • thermometers (for both gas and liquid)
  • Bunsen burner
  • Quartz crucible with sealed lid and a hole in the lid (500 to 800ml)*
  • PTFE sheets
  • Gas collection bags
  • Glass wool
  • Silicon tubing
  • Ceramic insulation bricks
  • Silicon Carbide
  • Activated Carbon
  • Gram Scale
  • Tank of Nitrogen (this is a tough one)
  • Gas regulator / flow controls
  • water pumps
  • water tubing

I’ve already bought two scrap microwaves. I’ve ripped out their microwave power supplies and assemblies, removed the fans, and have a friend helping tune up the waveguide. I’m stuffing all this into one microwave thanks to a hacksaw and pliers. For fun I can create little plasma balls inside the microwave, but I have to use an antenna to do this. I probably don’t have the thing tuned correctly to absorb enough microwave energy to gasify our carbon samples, but we don’t have the gas collection system in place yet so it doesn’t matter. Yet.

It sure is cute, isn’t it?


One comment

  1. […] thing we learned was that scientific supply companies are NOT friendly to startups. We also learned we couldn’t afford analytical testing of the results. We did accomplish […]

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