Risks of Counterfeit Passive Electronic Components Heightened

Although any product can be a challenge to authenticate, passive electronic components, if faked fairly well, can be nearly impossible. This is true even for the most competent electronics distributor or test house with sophisticated counterfeit test equipment.

Creating a fake passive is fairly easy. There are many low grade, no name manufacturers which make capacitors, resistors, and other simple passive devices. Quite often the parts are so small that there are no markings on the part’s body. Therefore they do not need to be remarked since there was nothing there to start with. The only source of information is the easily reproducible printed label on the box or reel.

Even with the increased risk brought about by the current electronic component shortage, equipment manufacturers are buying passive electronics from independent distribution out of sheer desperation to keep their production lines moving. Lead times are often 26+ weeks even on simple capacitors.

Although there are no 100% assurances with passives, AERI takes many steps to authenticate them. With the exception of full electrical testing at varying temperatures, AERI performs the following:

  • Comparison of dimensional measurements to the datasheet
  • Utilization of X-ray Fluorescence to decipher all metal elements
  • Comparison against past shipments with detailed historical records
  • Datasheet specifications comparison
  • Basic electrical test, when our capabilities allow
  • Thorough examination of labels for authenticity
  • Communication with the manufacturer, when cooperative

But there are still uncertainties after performing all of these tests, and remember, this is difficult for any test facility, even if they tell you otherwise. If you cannot find them at an authorized source or use an alternative manufacturer part number, AERI is one of the safest independent distributors to buy electronic components from in the world.

Even though our track record is amazing, we still feel it is important to share with you the inherent risk of buying passives in the open market. We hope you found this information helpful towards developing safe policies around buying passive electronics from the independent market. Please contact your AERI Part Search Expert for your most difficult requirements

Could Substandard Parts Be The Culprit?

One of the questions being asked about April’s jet engine explosion is whether the fan blades were substandard parts.  It is very unlikely, but there are many other parts of the aircraft that have been found to be substandard or even counterfeit.  The Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has completed an audit of the FAA and found that they had consistently failed to alert federal law enforcement authorities about suspect parts installed in U.S. airplanes.  They also charged that the agency had closed investigations without ensuring that counterfeit and improperly manufactured parts (SUPs) were removed.

The manufacturing and supply chain have been moving to the east in countries like China and India, which may be part of the problem.  The safety threat posed by fraudulent parts is likely to increase unless federal authorities become more aggressive in combating it.  “We’re outsourcing so much work into those regions (that) the propensity for risk increases exponentially,” said Michael Dreikorn, a former FAA safety inspector who helped set up the agency’s first Suspected Unapproved Parts (SUP) program in the 1990s.  Whether it is fake engine parts or counterfeit electronic components in control systems, something must be done to protect the safety of the public. 

Read More.

Long Lead Times for Electronic Components Continue

The current electronic component shortage is causing OEM’s to fall far behind on deliveries to their customers.  At this point there is no end in sight to the long lead times.  Of even more concern is a shortage often leads to a more pronounced shortage than it really is since there is an over ordering frenzy.  Customers order more than they need from multiple vendors creating a false demand.  If the manufacturers of the components build everything ordered there may eventually be a huge glut in the market which would trigger a whole different set of problems.  At AERI we are helping one customer at a time get the parts they need with reduced lead times.  Our offices and connections throughout the globe allow us to locate parts that are difficult for most to obtain.  Reach out to one of our search experts to see if we can solve your component shortage problem. CONTACT US.

More on this topic here. Read More.

Southern California Component Distributor Behind Bars

Rogelio Vasquez of PRB Logics Corp. in Orange County California was arrested May 1st for selling counterfeit electronic components, some of which were likely to be used in military applications.  He faces many years in prison for putting his financial interest above the safety of our troops and citizens.  His instructions to subcontractors overseas who were performing the counterfeiting and testing were very clear that he intended to defraud his customers.  Read more… 

The indictment alleges that Vasquez acquired old, used, and/or discarded integrated circuits from Chinese suppliers that had been repainted and remarked with counterfeit logos. The devices were further remarked with altered date codes, lot codes, or countries of origin and then resold in an effort to deceive customers and end users into thinking the integrated circuits were new, according to the indictment. The indictment identifies specific parts which have been determined to be counterfeit by the corresponding Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), namely Xilinx, Inc., Analog Devices, Inc., and Intel Corporation.

The sale of counterfeit integrated circuits into the stream of commerce is a significant problem for both U.S. military and commercial end users due to the increased risk of equipment failure from using salvaged, sub-standard, or wrong components. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, is assisting the Department of Justice, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the National Reconnaissance Office, Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to convict Rogelio.  He will then join a growing list of convicts who have put their wallet above the safety of our soldiers and citizens.

Read More.

Broker vs. Franchise. Who is the Winner?

Rocky Image

Conventional wisdom typically leads procurement professionals to the conclusion that franchise distribution is always a better choice over independent distribution. What if there was another way? A quality broker can offer unique benefits that authorized distribution cannot.

  • Often much less expensive even with new date codes
  • One stop shop with access to all brands and product types
  • Hold physical inventory on shelves for extended periods, bonded inventory
  • Long term storage solutions for EOL parts to benefit your balance sheet
  • Personal attention from tenured account representatives
  • Higher credit limits to help manage cash flow and balance sheets
  • In-house counterfeit detection (franchises have shipped Counterfeits)
  • And, of course, available parts even after obsolescence or allocation

AERI has been able to continually provide customers with better solutions through strategic offerings such as those listed above. Our customers are delighted to learn there is another way to procure parts than the cookie cutter franchise method. We have created a solution that offers better pricing, quality parts, and great customer service. The benefit of working with an excellent broker and not being just another “order”, as with most franchise distributors, is compelling enough to switch.

10 Tips to Avoid Popcorning of IC’s


“Popcorning” is the term used when an IC cracks during the reflow process due to the expansion of trapped moisture. This can lead to immediate board failure or latent defects, which often rear their ugly head in the field. Removing the moisture is fairly easy to do, but it can be difficult to implement a successful program. Here are 10 often misconceived tips to avoid your production line from a halting.

The following “Top Ten” list was provided to SMTA, courtesy of Cogiscan and is intended to dispel certain misconceptions related to MSD control in electronics assembly.

  1. In general, quality and process engineers in the PCB assembly industry have a number of misconceptions about MSD control, because they have not been formally trained on the most recent industry standards.
  2. A sealed dry bag with desiccant does not require high vacuum. A simple heat seal with the proper quantity of desiccant is sufficient. High vacuum can actually be detrimental by increasing the amount of moisture diffusion through the bag.
  3. The bag seal date and the 12 months minimum shelf life is not an expiration date. The decision to bake components is strictly based on the status of the humidity indicator card when the bag is opened.
  4. The clock of exposure time does not always stop when previously exposed components are returned to dry storage (dry cabinet or dry bag).
  5. Components that have never been exposed and get stored in 10% RH dry cabinets may have a limited storage life and exceed their critical level without ever being exposed to ambient conditions.

    AERI bakes our orders without charge for any customer that requests it. Please let your search expert know if your company would like its parts baked when received out of moisture range.

  6. The default bake cycles have been significantly increased from 24 hours to 48 hours at 125C, and from 8 days to 79 days at 40C. A table is provided in the IPC/JEDEC standard J-STD-033A to reduce the bake cycle according to the physical parameters of each component (MSL and body thickness). To avoid degrading solderability there is a cumulative limit of 48 hours at 125C.
  7. The floor life clock is not reset by reflow. Assemblers must track the remaining floor life of MSDs assembled on boards for double-side reflow and rework.
  8. When factory ambient conditions exceed 30C / 60% RH, the floor life indicated on the MS label is no longer applicable. In this case the floor life must be de-rated.
  9. Boards must be baked prior to rework to avoid damaging moisture sensitive components during localized reflow. The default bake cycle for populated boards is 10 days at 90C.
  10. Many internal procedures within organizations are based on obsolete industry standards, such as the IPC-SM-786A and JESD22-A112. These documents have been superseded by the joint IPC/JEDEC standard J-STD-033A released in 1999 and revised in July 2002.

Creative Counterfeits

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This is one of the most creative counterfeits our QC engineers have discovered. The counterfeiters used an EPROM device, which has a UV erase window, and blacktopped over the window to disguise it as a different part. Blacktopping a plastic packaged part to create uniform lot codes, date codes, or make it a slightly different part number is common, but blacktopping a ceramic device is much more unusual. And we have never seen a counterfeiter try to cover a UV erase window. Some of the other signs of counterfeiting were;

  • Uneven finish
  • Visible paint when viewing the edge
  • Bent leads
  • Different lot codes on the bottom and the same one for all devices on the top

It takes seasoned and detailed QC engineers to spot dangerous counterfeits. AERI takes pride in hiring and training the best talent to ensure our customer experience remains leading in the industry.

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What To Do When You Receive A Counterfeit Part

Plan for the repair of the computer, a notebook with a hand hold

What To Do When You Receive A Counterfeit Part

With increased complexity in the authorized and independent  supply chain, it is highly likely you will run across counterfeit electronic components at some point. Here are some important steps to take as well as questions to consider when you do receive counterfeit parts.

  1. Should you keep the supplier on your approved list? When receiving a counterfeit part, our tendency may be to immediately terminate the supplier. Although that is likely the correct course of action, consider their role in the event. Could they have performed the proper inspection to detect the counterfeits if your organization had paid extra for in depth testing (X-ray, XRF, decapsulation, etc.)? If so, perhaps a probationary period with some changes to your test requirements would make sense as opposed to wholesale elimination.
  2. Can you, or should you return the counterfeit electronic components back to the supplier? It is illegal to ship counterfeit goods, whether you are the buyer returning them or the original seller. The parts should be permanently destroyed to avoid future use. However, you may want to keep some of the counterfeit parts for future reference and comparison, especially if you need them for legal purposes. If you decide not to return the parts, you want to ensure the supplier will not charge you, as they were unusable. Hopefully your organization did not pay for the parts in advance. If the supplier demands that the parts to be returned and you decide to send them back, you should do your best to confirm that the supplier is not intending to put them back in the marketplace, potentially harming another organization.
  3. Is the rest of your supply chain safe from counterfeits? Once you have had your eyes opened to the reality and implications of counterfeits in your products, you will likely want to look at which of your other suppliers may also be a risk for your organization.  The first group of suppliers to audit would be your non-authorized distributors.  Are they certified to counterfeit mitigation standards, do they have the proper test equipment and engineers to use the detection tools, and if a counterfeit did get through in the future, would their warranty and insurance policy cover the costs? Next to on the list to audit would be the authorized channel.  There are a growing number of authorized distributors going outside of their manufacturer direct channel to supply parts to their customers.
  4. Could the same supplier have shipped you counterfeits in the past? Upon receiving counterfeit parts from a supplier, it’s a good time to go through and audit your inventory for parts previously received from the same supplier. If they are already on boards and in the field, are you having a high failure rate? Counterfeits may be the culprit.  
  5. At what point were the counterfeits detected? Depending on when and where the counterfeits were detected, you can evaluate how your counterfeit avoidance program is performing. If they were caught at your distributor, your program gets an A+.  If they were found in products already in the field, you better get to work to bring your up your F or you are going to fail. 
  6. Should you engage or inform the end-use customer or does it not affect them? There is a lot of value sharing detected counterfeits with your customer. If they actually received the product, there is no question that they must be informed.  If not, the information is still helpful for the customer so they can consider re-designing, adding test parameters to mitigate risk, and enlightening them so they don’t buy the same parts from another supplier in the future.
  7. Does your company or a government entity require you to report the counterfeits to the broader industry? If your organization is supplying the U.S. government with products, it is highly likely that there is a requirement in your contract to report the information to GIDEP or other relevant reporting agencies. By doing so you are helping the broader industry avoid the dangers of counterfeits as well.
  8. Do you have procedures in place to catch similar counterfeit electronic components next time? If you have found one counterfeit, who knows how many others have made it through to your products. There is no time like the present to put an end to the possibility of receiving more. This can be a fairly pain free process if you use the right partner to shield your company. Niche distributors, like AERI, do much of the counterfeit risk mitigation work for free when purchasing your products from them. Alternatively, you can send your QC team to conferences and training seminars in an attempt to gain the necessary knowledge that the niche distributors already have. 

These are tough questions that our team wrestles with on a regular basis. We have answered these questions and more for countless companies who have found themselves in this unfortunate position. It is important to continually vet your suppliers and work only with those who maintain the highest standards and reputation. There are many factors involved to avoid the receipt of counterfeit parts. Make sure you consider all the aspects, and most importantly, contact known experts if you need help navigating the challenges.

How to Approve an Independent Distributor


Adding an Independent Distributor to your AVL should be done with extreme caution.  Although there are cases of counterfeits being supplied by Authorized Distribution, the risk is much higher from the Independent channel.  Here are some guidelines we have used with much success.

  1. Require certifications. A good mix to assure proper traceability, handling safety, and counterfeit detection skills is; ISO9001, AS9120 Aerospace Distribution, AS6081 Counterfeit Detection, and ANSI/ESD S20-20.2014 to protect parts from ESD damage.
  2. Perform a reference check with some of their well known customers. Any good supplier will have a few contacts for you to contact and ask a few questions.
  3. Minimum of a 1 year warranty to assure that once you start using the parts you have return ability if there are problems.
  4. Membership in a few important trade groups, such as; IDEA, ERAI, and GIDEP. These groups all remove members for poor business conduct. 
  5. Established a minimum of 5 years.
  6. There are no legitimate reports of counterfeits within the last 5 years, sources (GIDEP, ERAI, IDEA, etc.).

This is not an exhaustive list, but this will narrow down your suppliers to the few that you need.  For the most part Independent Distributors are fishing in the same pond.  The difference is that if you use a supplier with all of the traits above they will not provide you with parts that are in poor condition or counterfeit.  Select just a few good suppliers and ignore the masses of bad ones.  They will find you what you need and if they can’s you really don’t want the parts.

3 Reasons you need to attend a counterfeit electronic component conference and which ones to attend

counterfeit conferences

3 Reasons You Need to Attend a Counterfeit Electronic Component Conference

With alarming numbers of counterfeit electronics entering the supply chain, you are likely aware that there are multiple counterfeit electronic component conferences held globally to help combat the problem. If you haven’t been to one yet, or you need some encouragement  to attend again, here are 3 reasons to head to another and some recommendations of which conferences you may find most helpful.

  1. Counterfeit parts are rampant and on the rise.

It’s important to know the latest in counterfeit part trends so you aware and informed, therefore best positioned to mitigate any risks with your own manufacturing supply chain. Many problems can be avoided by just knowing what counterfeiters are up to in the marketplace.

  1. You will learn important tips and tricks.

Many of these conferences will help you learn how to spot counterfeit parts and detect potential issues before they make it onto your manufacturing floor.

  1. Meet business critical partners.

These conferences are fantastic venues to meet new partners who can potentially transform your supply chain dynamics and therefore your business.  Many of the organizations in attendance are thought leaders in counterfeit detection, mitigation, and problem resolution. It’s imperative to align with the right partners which have years of experience solving supply chain and counterfeit part issues. In some cases the right partner can save you from the loss of a customer, a lawsuit, or even worse, life or death.

There are a number of different venues in which you can learn more about counterfeit electronic components. Each one has its own distinct value. Depending on your needs, you may attend one or more of the following conferences or training courses. Here are some of the most reputable events that I recommend and often attend myself.

Counterfeit Chip with skull and cross bones

Counterfeit Avoidance

CCAW – Counterfeit Components Avoidance Workshop (Hosted By Components Technology Institute, Inc

  • Held annually in different U.S. locations
  • Very focused on counterfeit electronic components detection
  • Great detail on how to detect counterfeits
  • Knowledgeable veteran teachers from the manufacturing industry
  • Perfect forum to send new electronic components inspectors

Symposium on Counterfeit Parts and Materials Logo

Symposium on Counterfeit Parts and Materials (Hosted by CALCE and SMTA)

  • Held each June in Maryland
  • High level overview of counterfeit electronic components issues
  • Introduction of potential tools to detect counterfeits
  • Outlines of different quality standards available for the industry
  • Workshops offered separately to learn counterfeit detection techniques

diminishing manufacturing sources and material shortages convention 2017

DMSMS Conference (Diminishing Manufacturing Sources and Material Shortages)

  • Held annually in different U.S. locations
  • Government contract focused
  • Not specific to counterfeit electronic components
  • Addresses a breadth of obsolete component and mechanical part issues
  • Counterfeit electronic component topics peppered into overall schedule

Electronic resellers of america inc ERAI logo

ERAI Executive Conference

  • Held every other year in different U.S. locations
  • Heavy focus on independent distributor issues
  • Addresses counterfeits as well as other customer/supplier issues
  • Workshops offered separately to learn counterfeit detection techniques

IIOM forum anti Counterfeitng

International Institute of Obsolescence Management Conference(Formerly Component Obsolescence Group)

  • Held annually in the United Kingdom
  • Broad obsolescence topic range, which includes counterfeit electronic components
  • Heavy focus on UK and European issues and organizations
  • Don’t miss the Gala dinner, which is always in a beautiful historic venue

Independent Distributors of Electronics Association logo

IDEA Training Courses(Offered by EPTAC)

  • Held multiple times a year in different U.S. locations
  • Hands-On courses designed for technicians which receive electronic components
  • 1 day and 2 day courses offered
  • IDEA has the most well established document for the receiving of electronic components from the independent distribution channel, which is used during training