Component August 25, 2023
Counterfeit Electronic Components Increase in Complexity

Counterfeit Electronic Components Increase in Complexity

Counterfeit electronic components have evolved beyond crude imitations, now encompassing a range of deceptive tactics to pass off as genuine components. A counterfeit is defined as an imitation intended to fraudulently deceive as genuine for profit. In the component market, counterfeits come in various forms:

  • Re-Marked Scrap Product: Non-functional or discarded components re-marked as functional and resold.
  • Re-Marked Second-Hand Components: Used original parts re-marked and repackaged as new.
  • Functional, yet substandard product that has been re-marked and resold as a higher spec product at an increased price.
  • Unauthorized functional copies.
  • Forged Traceability: Authentic components accompanied by falsified authenticity documentation.

The electronic component counterfeiting landscape has grown more intricate, encompassing impeccable visual appearances and seemingly unblemished documentation trails.  We have moved beyond fraudulent copies of manufacturers’ logos and IC packages with no die inside. Counterfeiters now have sophisticated operations, utilizing impeccable component finishes, as well as seemingly perfect paperwork trails, as the potential gains for counterfeiters are enormous.

While no one likes to be fooled by counterfeit products of any kind, their presence in the component market poses significant risks in vital applications like aviation, defense, and medical devices. Relying on unverified components could lead to catastrophic failures.  Some examples of when counterfeiting may lead to compromised long-term reliability include:

  • Re-Marking Damage: The process of etching back the original external markings with aggressive chemicals or mechanical grinders can result in internal bond or substrate damage. Residues from the cleaning process slowly infiltrate the device, leading to bond-pad or bond-wire failures.
  • Improper Handling: Non-compliant storage and handling lead to moisture ingress and electrostatic discharge damage.
  • Recovered Components: The process of recovering previously used semiconductors from old PCBs can result in catastrophic heat and mechanical damage. Recovery of the IC from the PCB is typically the last step of a scrap process, which includes the product’s prior use, and a return-for-recovery route through an uncontrolled storage environment. Exposure to excessive humidity, water, and salt is not uncommon. This process produces a genuinely used product with uncertain dependability.


Identifying Counterfeit Electronic Components

Electronic component testing like AS6081 can detect counterfeit or low-quality products and protect your supply chain in a number of ways.

  • Documentation and packaging inspection: This involves checking the authenticity of the documentation and packaging for the electronic components. Counterfeiters often use fake documentation and packaging to make their products look legitimate.
  • Physical inspection: This involves visually inspecting the electronic components for signs of counterfeiting, such as poor quality workmanship, incorrect markings, or missing components.
  • Functional testing: This involves testing the electronic components to make sure they meet the specified performance requirements. Counterfeit components often do not meet the same performance standards as genuine components.
  • Chemical analysis: This involves using chemical analysis to identify the materials used in the electronic components. Counterfeiters often use cheaper materials that can degrade the performance of the components.
  • X-ray inspection: This involves using X-rays to view the internal structure of the electronic components. Counterfeiters often use different internal structures than genuine components.
  • Magnetic particle inspection: This involves using magnetic particles to detect flaws in the electronic components. Counterfeit components often have flaws that genuine components do not have.

The AS6081 standard provides a comprehensive methodology for detecting counterfeit and low-quality electronic components. By following the AS6081 standard, you can help to protect your supply chain from counterfeit and low-quality components.


Safeguarding Your Supply Chain

While the industry may lack a fail-proof solution, buyers of electronic components are still capable of combating counterfeit components in their supply chain.  The most efficient way of combating counterfeits is through a comprehensive sourcing structure.  Vetting and analyzing your sources can reveal indications of questionable transactions.  For instance, a newly established company offering a large quantity of a scarce product must be scrutinized and evaluated for authenticity.  Additionally, buyers should leave margin in deals for testing services to ensure that the parts receive a thorough testing and evaluation process.

At Aegis Components, our sourcing structure has allowed us to weather the storms of uncertainty in the electronics industry.  Our network of suppliers has received over a decade of scrutiny and evaluation.  Our strategically placed locations around the world allow us to visit and audit the headquarters of a company before making a purchasing decision.  Additionally, Aegis Components has partners with reputable test houses to provide the appropriate inspection and testing of a part before delivering it to our customers.  Our thorough approach to procurement combined with our exceptional logistics structure has allowed us to combat counterfeit electronic components, and rival the larger distributors in our industry.

Add Aegis Components to your approved vendor list, and let our team help you make strategic and well-informed purchasing decisions.

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