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The fight against counterfeiting

Posted: 17 Aug 2011 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fake chips? supply chain? counterfeits?

Counterfeit parts and materials are proliferating and have infiltrated the entire manufacturing supply chain. The first step for OEMS to protect themselves from counterfeiting is education. A few companies provide training for independent distributors, OEMs and contract manufacturers. Components Technology Institute Inc. (CTI), for example, offers a "counterfeit components avoidance" workshop that provides companies with the tools to inspect and detect counterfeit parts; it includes a certification program for independent distributors.

Organizations and trade groups offering similar or complementary services include the Independent Distributors of Electronics Association, ERAI Inc., SAE International and Tech America. Searchable directories of authorized distributors include, from the Semiconductor Industry Association, and, from the Electronic Components Industry Association.

In the government and defense sectors, the Government-Industry Data Exchange Program ( is a resource for reporting and sharing information about counterfeit components.

According to Don Trenholm, president of Custom Analytical Services and a CTI Workshop presenter, detection starts with visual inspection of the packaging of incoming shipments for anomalies in the shipping documentation, barcode labels, packaging, country of origin or part codes. Next, the investigating company needs to check the components themselves for indications of previous use, marking alterations or other anomalies in the component's packaging. Documenting anomalies is essential and requires a high-resolution camera and high-powered microscope.

Some counterfeits are relatively easy to identify. Typical examples include a wrong part number, a suspect company logo, missing serial numbers, scratches on the packaging, or the wrong type or misalignment of leads.

Others are more difficult to detect and require destructive testing. One such counterfeiting practice is the harvesting of dice from decapped scrap ICs. The dice are repackaged in military-style packages with new wirebonds attached on top of the original bond. Such chips require X-ray inspection, decapping of the package and electronic testing.

Fake component

Counterfeit example

Counterfeiters are getting sophisticated. An increasingly common practice is to remove the wire leads from a low-cost reclaimed chip and bond new ones on top of the old bonds.

"At one point, I could detect 85 percent of all counterfeits optically, but it's getting harder," Trenholm said. "The counterfeiters are doing a great job."

- Bruce Rayner
??EE Times

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