When it comes to buying parts from the open market, organizations must set up a line of defense against counterfeits in their QC departments. This goes for OEM’s, CEM’s, Brokers, etc. The number one way to catch substandard or counterfeit parts is with a well trained QC inspector. There are all kinds of good tools out there to detect counterfeits (Decapsulation, XRF, Curve Trace, X-RAY, etc.), but the well trained inspector with minimal tools remains the #1 way to catch counterfeits and poor quality parts. The use of more expensive tools catches the 1% of counterfeits that as good as the real thing.
How can you assure that your inspectors are well trained and can catch the fakes? Most importantly they need to be an apprentice of a great QC inspector for months. The IDEA-ICE-3000 certification program is an integral part of the inspector training. The certification requires that an inspector is well versed in all of the conditions you can expect when purchasing parts from the open market. The QC inspectors bible is the IDEA-STD-1010, which is full of great pictures, descriptions, and techniques to combat this unique problem. The IDEA certification training includes relevant JEDEC standards as well.
At AERI, all of our inspectors are certified to IDEA-ICE-3000. If you would like to learn more about how to prepare your QC team to catch the fakes, follow the link.
SMTA and CALCE are putting on an updated seminar to help keep us all up to speed with the latest threats and measures to counteract counterfeit components. AERI will have a booth displaying our techniques and capabilities to assist manufacturers with their component needs. Please visit us to so we can help to keep your production lines moving with high quality and authentic components. We will be there to hear your component issues first hand so that we might be able to help you address some of your biggest challenges purchasing from the unauthorized supply chain, For more info click here
How much would it cost to make your iPhone 5s able to track your emotions? Less than $1, Freescale Semiconductor’s Kaivan Karimi said at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference Thursday. Read more
There does not seem to be any slowdown in the rate of counterfeits we receive. Even with our strong vendor approval process, the fakes keep on coming in. We see at least a few groups of counterfeit parts each week. Thankfully we have not had a counterfeit slip through our counterfeit electronic component detection processes for years.
With this continued rate of counterfeit product entering the market, it’s scary to see the continued lack of good counterfeit detection processes at the majority of suppliers in the world. When meeting with new customers, it often surprises us to find out that they have not thoroughly vetted their current suppliers countefeit detection processes. In this market, it is essential that manufacturers select just a few independent distributors/brokers, audit their processes, and check their references. Manufacturers do not need more than a few electronic component suppliers in the independent market. The majority of the inventory that they have access is available to all electronic component brokers.
Below is a typical example of what we see. We received these this week. You can easily see blacktopping under the microscope, there are chips on the package from being removed from a board, and the leads have been re-tinned to make them look new.
When working with many of our customers, they share with us their date code restrictions for electronic components. Sometimes it’s 18 months, sometimes 3 years, you name it. We located the following guidance document produced by Maxim Integrated electronic components. It states that with today’s manufacturing standards and materials, older date codes are no longer an issue. This is great news for many product manufacturers. They can loosen unnecessary purchasing restrictions, which will allow them to have more access to electronic parts, and at much lower prices. To see Maxim’s document please click here datecode_policy
A fire has erupted at Hynix’s plant in Wuxi, China. Hynix is the #2 maker of DRAM chips and this plant is responsible for for 40% of its output. There are different reports, some stating not much damage has occurred and others stating that it was a massive fire. We will have to see what the reality is to determine how much of a supply problem this will be. To read more click here.
Peter Picone, owner of Tytronix and Epic International Electronics, has been charged for selling counterfeits to both military and commercial companies. This is just one of a few different cases brought against electronic component brokers over the last few years. There are so many companies out there doing the same thing as Picone, but it takes years to build a case and prosecute so they are not brought to justice often enough. At least this tells the broker community that they better think twice about selling counterfeits or even suspect counterfeits. To read the Department of Justice’s detailed statement click here.
At AERI we see a large discrepancy between different manufacturer’s thresholds for counterfeit detection. Some manufacturers insist on testing, and as long as the price is competitive and fair they will pay whatever the fee is. Others make it seem like there is no room for additional costs so they opt for minimal testing which is free. You might think that the manufacturers opting for free testing are making products where reliability is not as important, but it does not always work out that way.
The first stage of in depth counterfeit testing, as detailed in AS6081, includes decapsulation, X-RAY, XRF, and other tests that are usually free, such as the solvents test, and in depth exterior evaluation. This testing, done properly, costs upwards of $400 per lot. And, there are often more than one lot per order.
We have had many situations where we purchase the last 100 parts on the planet, it is made up of 4 lots, and the original cost of the parts is a total of only $200. If you add on the 4 lots of counterfeit testing, it increases the cost to the manufacturer by $1,600 (800%). In high reliability applications it is worth every penny, but to the buyers and purchasing management it is a hard pill to swallow.
What is your experience with how much your company is willing to pay for counterfeit testing? Does your company require it on every order and work the extreme cost difference into the cost of doing business in the high reliability field? Can you still make a profit with these tests being performed?
With the economy being so global, it is critical that the world’s governments work together to tackle the growing counterfeit electronic components epidemic. In that spirit, the U.S. and France have just completed a mission together to do just that.
In partnership with French Customs, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently completed Operation Core Systems, a bilateral intellectual property rights enforcement operation that targeted counterfeit critical computer and other electronic components, including semiconductors, computer networking equipment, hard drives, and memory cards, which are a threat to both the U.S. and France. Conducted from Nov. 1, 2012 through April 30, the operation resulted in the seizure of 480 shipments of potentially harmful counterfeit electronic components.
Here is a fun example that allowed us to detect these fakes with multiple blatant clues.
Clue #1; During our inspection process we dip humidity indicator cards (HIC) in water to see if they are real HIC cards or if they have been made just to fool the unsuspecting buyer. This HIC did not even respond by turning pink while under the water.
Clue #2; We are careful to read the labels provided with the package to see if the information is correct and there are no misspellings. This label was loaded with misspellings.
Clue #3; Obvious blacktopping easily removed with acetone.
Clue #4; Re-tinned leads
Whenever you are receiving parts make sure to use all the tools at your disposal. Each type of examination gives either more confidence or builds your case against the suspect components. We must utilize profiling, as described in the judicial/political world, when dealing with unauthorized distributors. In todays open market you must consider all parts from the open market guilty (suspect counterfeit) until proven innocent. We cannot use a fair legal system when subjecting these part to their trial.