Protect Yourself When Buying Obsolete Electronic Components

Tips to Identify and Avoid Counterfeit Components

You can’t be too careful when you are buying obsolete electronic components. Counterfeit electronic components are a pervasive issue,particularly when dealing with obsolete parts.  John Pallazola offers four “Golden Rules” to follow when buying obsolete parts:

  1. Verify the trustworthiness of the supplier
  2. Ensure the traceability of the paperwork, including COC and invoices
  3. Test the parts to confirm that they operate properly
  4. Confirm details such as quantity and date codes from the supplier

I strongly recommend comprehensive testing of the parts following AS5553’s counterfeit parts avoidance training compliance, IDEA’s method 1010 inspection and AS 6081 Fraudulent Electronics Parts Avoidance, Detection and Mitigation test practices.

For more information about counterfeit testing for obsolete parts and to learn how NJMET can help you, email jgfederico@njmet.com.

Article on Solvent Testing Published in October’s US Tech

I recently wrote an article for US Tech (published in the Oct, 2014 issue) describing the proper procedures for solvent testing for remarked and resurfaced electronic components and the occurrence of false positive results when a solvent test is applied to the wrong type of electronic component.  Examples of false positive results are shown where the Dynasolve and Mineral Spirits tests return false positive results when used on authentic can packaged devices.

While Mineral Spirits testing, Acetone testing, 1- Methyl 2- Pyrrolidone testing and Dynasolve testing have been vital in uncovering many anomalies associated with parts that have been remarked or resurfaced, we show that using these techniques improperly on hermetically sealed ceramic devices or can packages that have not been resurfaced can result in false positives.

NJ MET has developed a lot of expertise in correctly applying the appropriate solvent testing procedures, depending on the type of electronic component being tested.  We apply that expertise in all parts of our component testing programs.  Thorough testing with the appropriate procedures is necessary to identify counterfeit components and keep them out of the supply chain.

I invite you to join the conversation by commenting below your thoughts and experiences with these testing procedures.

Thorough Testing is Required to Identify Counterfeit Components

For over a decade, the electronics industry has been plagued by the fear of distributing and using counterfeit electronic component products. While many industries have been educated in the proper precautions and testing methods in weeding out such problems, others have not thoroughly exercised the proper protocols and test methods to protect themselves from this epidemic.

While many in these industries feel that limited testing can ensure the performance of such products, this whitepaper, published by the Semiconductor Industry Association, clearly shows that electrical testing alone cannot prove the validity and authenticity of electronic components performance.

The whitepaper goes on to show that some of the processes used in counterfeiting may introduce erratic behavior of the parts to the point where they can work sometimes and fail others.

“Counterfeit semiconductors have far higher failure rates than legitimate semiconductors. While some counterfeit semiconductors will fail immediately when electrically tested or first used, other counterfeit semiconductors pose a much larger threat in terms of their susceptibility to failure after days, months, or years of operation. This is because counterfeiting operations often introduce latent defects that can remain undetected during testing of electronic systems. These subtle defects can later result in either sudden failure during system use, or, more insidiously, can cause erratic performance and produce unexpected results, which may be undetectable until the counterfeit component completely fails.” (SIA whitepaper: page 12)

We at NJMET agree with the SIA that just electrical testing is not sufficient to identify counterfeit components. With that said and with publication of this whitepaper, it is my strong recommendation to continue practicing comprehensive testing following AS5553’s counterfeit parts avoidance training compliance, IDEA’s method 1010 inspection and AS 6081 Fraudulent Electronics Parts Avoidance, Detection, and Mitigation test practices to help contain and detect future counterfeit component distribution.

Do You Think You can Spot a Fake?

I recently read an interesting article from BGR.com on consumer electronics purchases – and how consumers may be overly confident in their ability to spot counterfeit electronic equipment. The article quotes a study from Canon USA.

I found it interesting that the survey revealed that consumers trust their instincts, but seem to lack the understanding of the possible safety risks and the true long-term costs of counterfeit consumer electronics. What was even more compelling based on the survey was that consumers seem overconfident in their ability to spot a fake, and as a result, are at risk of possible harm.

Interesting enough this recent survey by Canon reveals:
• In 2013, 12 percent of the U.S. consumers surveyed knowingly bought fake consumer electronics, while 18 percent bought them unknowingly.
• 40 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed were unaware that counterfeit consumer electronics may harm them.
• 45 percent believed that counterfeit consumer electronics do the job just as well as genuine consumer electronics

I strongly recommend that any consumer be cautious of buying an electronic product at “an affordable price” and to be leery of purchasing a product without an authentic manufacturer’s certificate of warranty/compliance or an authorized distributor’s certificate of the same. In addition, it would be a wise idea to investigate the product’s model number and serial numbers. It would be helpful to alert the manufacturer if you believe that the product you purchased is counterfeit.

Checking for the certificate of warranty/compliance and checking model numbers and serial numbers has proven very helpful in the electronic component testing industry in containing the counterfeit electronics epidemic.

Protecting Yourself from Counterfeit IT Products

A recently posted article from a UK newsletter warns of the potential dangers of counterfeit electronic parts in IT products.  You can read the article here.

This is a very good article in educating the buyer on what they have to do to protect themselves from purchasing counterfeit goods.

While Probrand has developed a good five point checklist for businesses to ensure they aren’t caught up buying counterfeit goods,  our company has been successful registering the warranty and checking the product’s designated serial number which can be used to track the authenticity with the manufacturer.

Registering the product and checking the serial number are great communication tools to alert the manufacturer whether there is a non-authentic product out on the market.

Counterfeit Components in Consumer Products, Too

An article in the International Herald Tribune (Police seize counterfeit HP products) earlier this month described a police raid in Lahore that netted over 36000 counterfeit components as well as counterfeit HP ink and toner cartridges. Hewlett-Packard provided the intelligence information to the local authorities who carried out the raid. HP’s efforts remind those of us in the component testing industry that counterfeit components affect consumer products as well as aerospace and defense programs.

Many types of counterfeit inspection tests developed for the defense and aerospace industries can be adapted to the consumer products industries. Risk mitigation analyses like visual and dimensional inspection, marking permanency tests, as well as electrical and xray testing where appropriate will help uncover suspect components.

Our experience has shown that counterfeit components are manufactured all over the world, and it is often hard to tell the country of origin of a part. Efforts to contain the epidemic of counterfeit parts must continue throughout the world to insure that consumers and governments get the high quality authentic parts that they are paying for.

Who Bears the Costs for Counterfeit Parts?

If a government contractor purchases parts which turn out to be counterfeit or suspect, who should bear the costs of those parts?  New requirements proposed by the Department of Defense would block contractors from passing along the cost to the government.   The new regulations are contained in Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement 2012-D055.

The proposed regulations provide only a vague definition of what is a counterfeit part and does not define specific tests to determine if a part is counterfeit. 

Hopefully, the final version will provide a clearer definition and an outline of how parts should be tested.  The U.S. government also needs to be careful not to go to the other extreme.  The best testing methods will change over time as counterfeiters continually grow more sophisticated.  In addition, the best test protocol may vary depending on the specific part and how it is going to be used.

One advantage to the proposed regulations is that it will push contractors to be more careful who they buy their parts from.  If the parts turn out to be counterfeit, the contractor may now have to bear the cost of those parts.

Department of Defense Instruction 4140.67 – Counterfeit Prevention Requirements

The U.S. Department of Defense has taken a step towards establishing counterfeit prevention requirements for contractors. Late last month the DOD released a document which details who within the department has what specific responsibilities for counterfeit prevention.  From undersecretaries of defense on down, Department of Defense Instruction Number 4140.67, spells out various tasks and oversight in the effort to prevent counterfeit parts from entering the DOD supply chain. The document, issued April 26, 2013, also talks about responsibilities for properly flagging parts which are considered possibly counterfeit.

It is worth noting that this document is not limited to discussing counterfeit electronic components. Rather, it talks about counterfeit components in general. Although counterfeit electronic components still represent the largest area of concern, a wide range of parts sold to the DOD can be targets of counterfeiting.

The main purpose of this document is to define areas of responsibility, an important step in creating a comprehensive risk mitigation plan.  In defining those areas, Instruction 41460.67 gives some of the boundaries of the counterfeit protection system the DOD is mandated to establish.

What is a counterfeit component?  This document defines it as: “an item that is an unauthorized copy or substitute that has been identified, marked, or altered by a source other than the item’s legally authorized source, and has been misrepresented to be an authorized item of the legally authorized source.”

Instruction 4140.67 also specifies that the DOD will use GIDEP to report counterfeit components. Further, the document states the DOD should avoid establishing DoD-unique anti-counterfeiting procedures, a hopeful sign that DOD requirements will co-exist well with emerging industry standards.

Based on reviewing the DOD Instruction No: 4140.67, I am eagerly looking forward to seeing how the Section 818 “Parts Regulations”  will address having all contractors report all occurrences of suspect or confirmed counterfeit parts to GIDEP.

I am interested in how it will address counterfeit materials broadly rather than being limited to the counterfeit parts addressed in section 818.  Another area of interest is what is planned for the strict requirement designation to both critical and susceptible to counterfeiting items being traceable back to the manufacturer through a unique item identifier.

Industry Executives, Professors & Politicians on Counterfeit Electronic Components

Forums connecting academic researchers, industry executives and national politicians are an important way to publicize the issue of counterfeit components  and to explore new approaches to eliminating this danger from our supply pipeline.

A good example of such a forum was one held in Connecticut earlier this year at  UCONN.

The two-day symposium was sponsored by UConn’s new Center for Hardware Assurance, Security, and Engineering (CHASE) and the U.S. Army Research Office (ARO). Mohammad Tehranipoor, UConn’s Castleman Associate Professor in Engineering Innovation and director of CHASE, was one of the event’s organizers.

NJMET Announces Collaboration with BGA Test and Technology

Late last month, NJMET announced a new collaboration with BGA Test and Technology of Bohemia, NY. The collaboration will provide our customers with a larger array of services by combining the finishing services of BGA Technology with NJMET’s screening, qualification, re-ceritfication and testing programs.

BGA offers finishing services in the following areas: Solder Ball Attach, Reball and Repair, Pb to Pb free Conversion, PB free to PB conversion, Lead Conditioning (Repair) and PCB Device Reclaim.

See the full press release for more details.  Please check the NJMET website for information on all of our test and engineering services, including the Mission Imposter Risk Mitigation program.

Please contact me at joef@njmet.com or 973 546-5393 for more information on this new collaboration or any other NJMET service.