Counterfeit components are a continuously increasing risk to the quality of electronic products. Due to the use of counterfeit components, a product's lifetime may be shorter than expected. In extreme cases the product may even become hazardous to its user.
Use of counterfeit components
In ideal situations, electronics manufacturers can source electronic components directly from the original components manufacturers, and so minimize the risk of use of counterfeit components. However, the original manufacturers often stop producing the needed components before the lifecycle of the products in which they are used ends. This is kind of obsolete situation, but also other reasons (e.g. high price, production pressures, or hard to find) might cause need to buy components from the other sources than original component manufacturer or their authorized distributors.
In these kinds of situations, the risk of counterfeit components being used in production increases. This may leas to significant financial loss due to the components not working or being unreliable. Therefore suspicious component batches should be examined more thoroughly than component arriving via normal channels.
What are counterfeit components?
CCAP-101 defines that a component that has been confirmed to be a copy, imitation, fake, is represented as new and unused or markings have been altered in counterfeit. Also all components that cannot be authenticated through test and inspection shall be treated as counterfeit.
There are several methods for identifying counterfeit components. Our opinion, based on years of experience, is that the best reasults are achieved by combining the results of several analysis methods. Our method includes a visual inspection, testing of remarking, and opening the components. If necessary, electrical measurements and various chemical analyses can also be performed to inspect package materials and the materials of leads or solder bumps.
Our visual inspection also covers the outside of the delivery packages and their markings, which may already give indications of a possible case of counterfeiting. The packages are opened and their ESD shielding, humidity protection and humidity indicator cards are inspected.
The optical visual check of the components combined with the inspection of the physical dimensions of the components is an effective method for detecting counterfeits. An experienced inspector knows to look for suspicious details in leads and plastic packages that may remain unnoticed by inexperienced eyes. The optical visual inspection is performed using a stereo microscope and, if necessary, also with a material microscope.
The testing of the permanence of the markings an the surface can reveal modified markings or indications of the package. After the component has been decapped, the semiconductor markings are inspected and compared to the markings on the component package.
Any deviations observed are photographed and recorded in a report, in which we will also state our opinnion on the genuineness of the components.