Counterfeit Parts in Electronics Manufacturing

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Counterfeit Electronics Parts

Counterfeit parts are more common than many people believe, and this is certainly true for electronics components. These counterfeit parts decrease customer satisfaction and increase costs for legitimate manufacturers like ACDi. That is why we have a strict quality control system in place to prevent counterfeit parts from entering our supply chain.

The biggest issue with counterfeit parts is not that they don’t work; it’s that they sometimes work. This makes it extremely difficult to know when and if they will fail. These parts might work during testing or work for a long period of time before failing. Imagine what could happen if an electronic device that is crucial to the health and safety of the general public contained counterfeit parts. When these systems fail, the results could be disastrous.

Identifying Counterfeit Parts 

Not all “bad” parts are necessarily counterfeit. Counterfeit electronics parts are not easy to identify even with advanced methods, so it’s important to also have quality control processes where all parts are inspected through a variety of security measures. Some of the methods that suppliers use to determine if a part is counterfeit include:

  1. Visual inspection by optical microscopy
    2. X-ray
    3. De-capsulation
    4. Scanning acoustic microscopy
    5. FTIR
    6. Electrical test
    7. Discussions with OCM

Integrated circuits are one of the most frequently counterfeited parts. Common forms of counterfeits include low cost parts that have had their numbers replaced with those of higher cost parts, and cheap copies of parts that are manufactured in other countries.

There are a few things you should look for when checking a part. Take a close look at the part number, date, and the origin of the manufacturer. Check for pre-soldered pins, laser cut lines in the markings, incorrect logos, IC markings made with ink and packaging that is made from the wrong materials.

Counterfeit Electronics Parts

Image Source: SMT Magazine

Perhaps the biggest giveaway of counterfeit parts is the part number. Always cross reference part numbers and date codes for differences. Since counterfeiters won’t have the same capabilities as the original fab house and the logo on counterfeit parts will almost always be wrong.

Counterfeit Parts is a Multibillion Dollar Industry

Having to combat counterfeit parts is nothing new for electronics manufacturers, with various companies and technical journals discussing the problem as early as 2002. One of the primary reasons for counterfeit parts is supply and demand. As the consumer market continued to grow throughout the 80’s and 90’s the supply base had a difficult time keeping up. Enter counterfeit parts. Counterfeit parts were introduced into the supply chain through ‘gray market electronics brokers’.

According to a 2001 article on fake parts in the Journal of SMT, “One U.S. independent distributor, which asked to remain anonymous, said it paid a broker in China $70,000 for 1206 case-size ceramic capacitors about three months ago. The 90-cent parts, which under less-constrained market conditions would have cost 20 cents, slipped through two quality inspections before arriving on the OEM’s production floor”

High Quality Electronics Manufacturing

Creating high-quality electronic devices requires the use of high quality parts. Our electronics parts and devices undergo strict quality control inspections and ACDi ensures that we only source our components from reputable suppliers. Please contact us for more information about our electronics manufacturing services.

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