Counterfeit electronic components have caused many ripples in the electronics industry. One method of tackling the problem has been to create standards to deal with it. There are so many counterfeit avoidance documents now that it is getting hard to keep track of all of them. SAE, through their G19 committee, has created the most widely accepted counterfeit avoidance standards. This article is a general overview of all of their standards, and related documents, to help you make sense of it all.
It all begins with some end customer, the government or private entity, placing requirements on their subcontractor to have a counterfeit mitigation plan in place. SAE’s G19 committee has almost completed it’s suite of standards that will take this requirement from the original contractor all the way down to the company purchasing the components from the open market for electronic components.
How this plays out;
An OEM that is concerned with, or is required to mitigate the risk of counterfeits, can adopt and become certified to AS5553, which will guide them on methods to avoid and detect counterfeits (see more on AS5553). A sister standard, AS6081 was created for independent distributors to comply with an AS5553 compliant manufacturer’s requirements, making the two standards complimentary (see more on AS6081). The AS6171, which is soon to be published, will provide detailed risk evaluation instructions, as well as more detailed instructions on how to test electronic components for authenticity (see more on AS6171). The ISO/IEC 17025 standard is used for accrediting test facilities, such as those performing the tests prescribed in AS6171. An accreditation confirms that the test lab and their staff have the proper equipment and training to be able to perform specific tests (see more on ISO17025). The next revision of AS6081 will point to AS6171 for the required product verification tests as opposed to the current procedures within AS6081, which will then wrap all four of these documents together.
AS5553 OEM <buys from> AS6081 disty <accredited to> ISO17025 <to test specs> AS6171
Another counterfeit electronic component standard that has been added to the mix is the AS6496, which was created for Authorized Distribution, and primarily utilized for the return of product from their customers. SAE’s G19 committee has been working very hard to create all of these great documents. For more information please contact your AERI search expert for help or they can put you in touch with someone within our organization who has actually been heavily involved in the G19 committee.
The ISO/IEC 17025 specifies the general requirements for the competence to carry out tests and/or calibrations, including sampling. So how exactly does this apply to the suite of SAE G19 counterfeit avoidance standards? Within the verification of product process in the SAE G19 standards (AS6081, AS6171, AS6496, and AS5553) there are many different tests required in an attempt to verify a part’s authenticity. To assure that the lab and their technicians are competent in the required counterfeit detection techniques and how to use the associated equipment, labs will soon be required to be accredited to ISO/IEC 17025. Currently there are very few specific instructions on how to use the equipment for counterfeit detection in the published G19 standards. The yet to be released draft revision of AS6081, Fraudulent/Counterfeit Electronic Parts: Avoidance, Detection, Mitigation, and Disposition, created for independent distributors, is now pointing directly to the AS6171, Test Methods Standard; General Requirements, Suspect/Counterfeit, Electrical, Electronic, and Electromechanical Parts for instructions on how to verify the authenticity of electronic components. Therefore, in the very near future you will see that for an independent distributor to be certified to AS6081, they will first need to be ISO/IEC 17025 accredited to demonstrate that they are able to perform the counterfeit detection tests necessary. A certified distributor may alternatively subcontract the work to a lab that is accredited.
To buy a copy of the ISO/IEC 17025 or find more information on the standard click buy ISO/IEC 17025
The AS5553 was developed by a committee of government and industry quality experts under the guidance of SAE International. Its full title is AS5553 Counterfeit Electronic Parts; Avoidance, Detection, Mitigation, and Disposition. The standard was created to help electronic equipment manufacturers (OEM’s) create procedures to avoid counterfeits being installed in their products. The Department of Defense adopted it soon after its initial release in 2009. Subsequently, its language and flow downs began to appear on government contracts. This effect soon led to the need for independent distributors to be on the same page as OEM’s. In order to help that effort, the same working group, SAE G19, began creating the AS6081, specifically designed for independent distributors.
The AS5553 is currently undergoing changes to its second revision, AS5553b. One significant and contentious modification, that appears to be staying, is the removal of the appendices, which were original designed for guidance. The information in the current appendices is planned to be provided in a secondary document in order to make it clear that the guidance information is not to be treated as mandatory by auditors.
The AS5553 is a great document for your organization if you are a manufacturer of equipment and you need guidance on how to avoid counterfeit electronic components from inclusion in your products. Once adopting it within your quality standard, one of the steps that would help a company to comply would be to utilize an AS6081 distributor for all of their purchases of obsolete or hard-to-find electronic components.
For detailed information on how the AS5553 fits in among all of the other SAE G19 standards (AS6171, AS6081, etc.) on counterfeit electronic components, please see this diagram standards gap analysis. To buy a copy of the AS5553, please click buy AS5553.
The AS6171 was developed by a committee of government and industry subject matter experts under the guidance of SAE International. Its full title is AS6171 Test Methods Standard; General Requirements, Suspect/Counterfeit, Electrical, Electronic, and Electromechanical Parts. Its purpose is to create a way to evaluate risk and then use the calculated risk to choose appropriate test methods for particular product groups, which are clearly defined within the document. Its release has been long awaited due to the fact that both government and industry are looking for solid guidance on how to effectively perform risk evaluation and authenticity testing of electronic components. The standard is planned to be released before the end of 2015. In its anticipation, other standards, such as the AS6081, developed for independent distribution, are already referencing its utilization in their draft documents.
The AS6171 will be a great standard for your organization if you are looking for vetted test methods to either utilize within your own company or subcontract out to a lab or independent distributor with an in-house lab.
For detailed information on how the AS6171 fits in among all of the other SAE G19 standards (AS5553, AS6081, etc.) on counterfeit electronic components, please see this diagram standards gap analysis.
There are a lot of questions about how the US Customs and Border Protection Agency detains and confiscates products. We were fortunate to meet with the Deputy Director of Trade and found out a few answers, but we still can’t say exactly what they are doing there. That may just be how they prefer it. Here are some answers that were helpful to us in understanding their current process for inspecting electronic components;
- They have 10 different industry specializations, one of which is their Center of Excellence for Consumer Electronics and Semiconductors.
- The companies who import items that are confiscated, as well as their overseas suppliers, are subsequently targeted for increased inspections and detentions.
- They are using many of the standard methods internally for authentication of semiconductors (acetone swipe, country of origin consistent, date codes, lot codes, etc.)
- They have recently invested in a counterfeit detection lab consisting of microscopes, X-ray and decapsulation equipment.
- They contact the manufacturers of the product and often send them samples for verification. They say that if manufacturers are not being completely forthright on their evaluations, they have ways to make them accountable for their lack of goodwill cooperation. The reason this is so important is because it would be really easy for manufacturers to just say everything is suspect counterfeit if it is not coming from one of their authorized distributors. Then authentic parts would get confiscated all the time.
- Their agents still do not have bag sealing equipment to keep moisture sensitive parts dry nor do they have a good way to strap trays to keep the parts from getting damaged during further transit. Our team has given the deputy director some tips on what to use for strapping and sealing components, but the cost seemed to be the hurdle stopping them from improving their process. We have been a victim of damaged parts on a small scale due to this lack of proper packaging procedures, but there have been larger cases outside of AERI in which expensive parts have been made unusable.
- There is a program in place for an agent to detain and confiscate parts if a US buyer suspects parts of being counterfeit.
- If you do have inexpensive parts confiscated which you do not plan to fight for, it is wise to send a letter explaining that you are not going to argue with their results, and be sure to include what actions you plan to take to avoid getting counterfeits sent to you in the future.
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised that the agency has been making big improvements, but they still have a little ways to go. At the rate they are going it seems like they will be able to solve some of the remaining problems soon, with the help of constructive criticism coming from importers.
This is just what the industry needed, a complete book on counterfeit electronic components and their impact on the supply chain. I had been planning for years to write something myself, but I never found the time. I am glad to see somebody has. To get a copy follow the link here
The DLA (Defense Logistics Agency) has made the decision to no longer require distributors to mark the 5962 and 5961 part classes with DNA for later authentication. They have decided to take the process in-house. Originally each distributor which wanted to supply the DLA with electronic components, in the aforementioned part classes, was required to attain their own DNA signature and have each part marked prior to shipment to the DLA. The process of becoming capable to provide that service was in excess of $50,000 for each distributor. The DLA had begun reimbursing all of the distributors for their expenses to become registered to perform these activities and to provide the marking. As more and more distributors requested the DNA program it obviously became very expensive for the DLA.
This move to bring it in-house to the DLA will make the entry to sell these products much easier for distributors. There are still rigorous testing requirements, which align with the AS6081 procedures, but the marking requirement has been removed. Please read the document from the DLA at the following link for more information and details about the changes.
Electronics are delicate and the smallest faults in one component could damage the whole system. Counterfeit electronic components can lead to warranty issues, injuries, and lawsuits. It is paramount to ensure that the electronic components used are not counterfeit.
There are some complex methods you can use to check for authenticity but you can also perform a few quick visual tests to ascertain the possibility of counterfeit components. These visual tests are performed with a microscope with at least 30x magnification. Here are some of the things to check for:
- Typos on manufacturer labels. An authentic component will have perfect spelling, so one without is highly suspicious.
- The date codes on the label and the parts should be the same. If they are not, the counterfeits may have been added on later, and hence the reason for mismatched dates.
- Components big enough will display countries of origins. A part with the same lot code can’t be manufactured in separate countries.
- Compare the size and shape of the indents on the parts from the same lot. Every electronic component from a genuine manufacturer will always have the indents in the same spot and be of the same size. Counterfeiters usually have difficulty with consistency.
- Compare the markings on the parts with manufacturer specifications. Authentic parts should have the markings on the same spot on every part from the same lot, and they should never be on top of an indent. Sloppy markings is a good indicator of counterfeit components.
These are some of the quickest ways to detect counterfeit components. Avoiding counterfeits can not only save a company millions of dollars but also help by reducing risk to our lives as electronics play a significant role in today’s worlds, whether it’s pacemakers or airplanes.
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