What is the difference between COTS parts and custom parts?

There are two kinds of components in any hardware product.

  • “COTS parts”: These are parts you can buy off the shelf. M2 hex screws are COTS parts. Standard metal gears are COTS parts. Standard switching power supplies can be COTS parts. 6′ USB-A to micro-USB cables can be COTS parts.  Of these parts:
    • Some parts are commodity items – fasteners, for instance, are low cost, and there are many places you can buy them from.
    • Some parts are critical to the performance of your product. For instance, a Coretex M3 microprocessor is a critical component. A specific Bluetooth low energy chip is a critical component. A specific motor designed into your drive chain is a critical component.
  • “Custom parts”: these are parts that are unique to your design, that you will need to find a supplier to create specially for your product.  There are several categories:
    • Electrical / electronic parts: these include custom printed circuit board assemblies (PCBA), cable harnesses (i.e. custom cables with connectors on either side made to your specifications) and the like.  Of note: touch screens, although ubiquitous in modern society, are frequently made to order custom parts.  Why? Touch panels are bonded to display glass to order, for things like iPads and iPhones.  The chances of your design exactly matching that of an existing product is basically zero.  So if you design a beautiful installation-style display with a 21″ touch panel, it will be a custom item that you will need to find a strategic supplier to produce for you.
    • Mechanical parts: these can include plastic parts and metal parts, which can adopt a variety of shapes and have a variety of performance requirements (indicating a variety of manufacturing processes that can create those parts successfully.)
Was this article helpful?
1 out of 1 found this helpful

      This website and all posts and content are intended for educational purposes only and for no other purposes. This website does not and is not intended to provide legal, financial or tax related advice. Although we take great care to make sure that all of our information is accurate and useful for it intended educational purposes, if you have a specific issue for which you need actionable advice, please come to the Martin Trust Center in person to speak to one of our Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR) or consult a licensed attorney or other professional. Despite the backgrounds and qualifications of our staff, mentors, lecturers, authors, EIRs and speakers no attorney-client, advisor, or other confidential/privileged relationship exists or will be formed between you and the Martin Trust Center or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Under no circumstances should any content be relied upon in making any decisions that could have any financial or legal impact(s).
Have more questions? Submit a request


Powered by Zendesk