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How to spot counterfeit electronic components

  • July 26, 2021

Counterfeits electronic components are Electronic components that are misleading as to the origin or quality relating to the parts. It is possible to counterfeit a certain electronic component and potentially infringe one's trademark license rights. 

Counterfeit parts often have inferior specifications and quality. They may be a hazard in a critical system such as an aircraft navigation and life support equipment or space vehicle. The sale in consumer markets of electronic components making it easier for counterfeiters to integrate inferior and counterfeit goods into the market.

The Global Chip Shortage has affected our lives more than you think, and it's not solely due to low supply. One of the main reasons is very high demand. The demand for electronic products that use microchips like computers, smartphones, tablets, and even vehicles has skyrocketed in recent months. 

The increased demand from distributors, the manufacturing sector, suppliers, and other legitimate businesses increased activity for the proliferation of counterfeit components.

Because of the steadily growing demand for such products, criminals have more opportunities to sell these fake chips with less risk of detection. 


Why this matters

why spotting counterfeit components matter

Imagine a defibrillator sending incorrect high voltage electric shocks to a patient? How about a missile made of counterfeit parts was launched and missed its target?

The counterfeit electronic parts industry is a 75 Billion dollar money machine. Counterfeit parts are said to be integrated into 169 billion dollars worth of electronic devices. The fake semi industry has infiltrated many markets, disrupted operations of component manufacturers, and has been a supply chain problem for a while now. 

In a WSJ report, counterfeit parts are found about three times a year. In 2010, the U.S. military bought an astounding 59,000 counterfeit chips, counterfeit electronic parts, and integrated circuits. Limited resources and poor quality control measures resulted in the defense industry finding fake chips seven times in five years


A Solid Supply Chain is Needed

Paying attention to the supply chain is essential for companies to reduce counterfeit components and electronic parts. Improving the process by identifying where fake chips enter the supply chain will help lessen future incidents and improve service quality. 

The process of finding a counterfeit chip or counterfeits is not easy. We have listed a few methods to help you determine the authenticity of an electronic component, and hopefully, these methods will avoid unfortunate incidents with your company in the future. 


5 Techniques to Identify Counterfeit Parts

tips on how to identify counterfeit electronic components

Visual inspection is not enough.


1. Read the Label

Have you seen a genuine chip before? If you aren't working in the semiconductor industry, likely, you don't. These semiconductors are usually so small that it's hard to see the spec parts on them. 

Legitimate, high-quality electronic components have clear part numbers and clear markings that can validate their authenticity. Counterfeits upon inspection will have a compromised surface, a grainy part number, and other incorrect information that will need further inspection. 


Counterfeits are unlikely to impact the giants of the industry who bought their components directly from chips foundries. These fake electronic components are felt more by companies acquiring parts from distributors at any point down the supply chain.


2. Do an X-Ray Inspection

Doing an x-ray inspection on electronic components will show you what's under the hood so you can identify a real one from a fake. 

Here are the signs to look for:

●     Missing or inconsistent die sizes

●     Mismatched part numbers and date codes

●     Broken or missing wire bonds

●     Visible Delamination

●     Inconsistent indents


3. Use a Scanning Acoustic Microscope

Scanning Acoustic Microscope

It might sound over the top but using a Scanning Acoustic Microscope (SAM) is the best way to find laser etching under blacktopping. Once etching is found, resurfacing was likely done to replace the original markings. 

Of course, you can use acetone wash, but that method pretty much destroys the counterfeit chip it's used on, thus preventing you from using it if it passes inspection.


4. Look for Signs of Resurfacing

Counterfeiters are becoming quite good at avoiding detection these days. One of the most common techniques for creating counterfeit chips is a "resurfacing" technique called blacktopping. 

They sand off the original markings and put on a polymer coat to cover up the effects of the sanding. Sometimes, however, there are noticeable signs of blacktopping. For example, indents on the chip might be partially covered by the polymer. 


5. Be on the Lookout for Physical Deformities

To make money, many counterfeiters use cannibalized parts from scrap electronics and sell them as new. Physical wear and tear will be visible on the material upon visual inspection.

Counterfeit components have bent leads and pins, unnecessary markings on the surface, and scuff marks on the corners. These visual cues on the surface or the use of a magnifying lens will help you determine if the electronic component is legitimate or not. 


Why Buy Genuine Chips?

Why Buy Genuine Chips

Counterfeit chips are twice more likely to malfunction than the real ones. Counterfeiting is not interested in having a long-term business. Their methods are based on deception, exploiting resources, and quick profit.

The purchase of a genuine chip from a reliable company ensures safety, service quality, and peace of mind. Counterfeiters don't have this in mind when they sell counterfeit parts. 


Desperate Times Call For Temperate Measures

People who sell fake electronics would love nothing more than to take advantage of people who don't know any better. 

Chip 1 Exchange has been at the forefront of ensuring that our customers do not fall victim to counterfeiting. When they purchase electronic parts from our company, we have the proper equipment and testing methods to detect counterfeit parts and ensure what our customers are getting legitimate electronics all the time.



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