We build a heck of a lot of stuff here in Boulder. In fact, next week we estimate we will produce our 1,000,000 widget! That's a lot of assembly, testing, and design work going on right here in Colorado. But I'm often surprised by just how big the supply chain is to be able to put together some of these widgets. What is really Made in the USA is actually Made in Earth. We depend on eachother's countries to produce the best of what we're known for.
Why did this come up? We're getting more and more requirements to mark the products we sell with a 'country of origin' certificate. This is needed when our customers or distributors try to import our products into their perspective countries. Customs agents in Brazil need to know whether the product came from the USA, or from Ireland, or from Mars. We started asking ourselves - where do our products come from? If we build stuff here in Boulder, is that the country of origin? What about the COO (country of origin) of parts we solder to a board?
Let me give you an example:
The Si4703 FM Receiver breakout board is relatively small and simple, but it has a whole host of parts on it - 31 in fact.
Researching these parts online looking for COO can be very difficult. It's easier to walk over to the production floor and take a look at the reels and bags of components. Almost all are clearly marked with a country of origin. I was surprised by the wide mix of origins. Resistors for this build can come from Thailand, Taiwan, Israel, or China. Capacitors may come from Taiwan, USA, Israel, or China. Japan seems to have cornered the market of magnetics. The ICs come from Singapore and Mexico. Did you know the TPA6111A2 has 0.0794mg of gold in it? That's like $0.003957!
Officially, we are completing what's called a transformational process on this breakout board. We significantly change the raw materials to the point that we have created something new. We can now claim that SparkFun USA is the country of origin for this product. Alternatively, if we imported orange juice from Mexico then added water and called it Horange Juice, the country of origin would still be Mexico.
My point here is claiming that "Made in _____" is good/bad is largely misleading and often politically motivated (read up on trade tariffs). We want you to know that the parts and products you buy from SparkFun are Made in Earth. It's time for a big world hug.