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

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.

Information on the Senate’s Counterfeit Parts Amendment

The Senate recently approved a Counterfeit Parts Amendment  in an effort to reduce the number of counterfeit electronic components in the Armed Forces supply chain. The amendment was introduced by senators Carl Levin, D-Mich. And John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The amendment was to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012.

The amendment includes several important steps towards reducing the amount of counterfeit electronic components in the armed forces supply chain.

Here is a list of some of the specific requirements in the amendment:

• It requires DOD officials and DOD contractors who become aware of counterfeit parts in the supply chain to provide written notification to the DOD Inspector General, the contracting officer, and the Government-Industry Data Exchange Program (GIDEP) or similar program designated by the Secretary of Defense.

• It requires large DOD contractors to establish systems for detecting and avoiding counterfeit parts in their supply chains and authorizes reduction of contract payments to contractors that fail to develop adequate systems.

• It authorizes the suspension of contractors who repeatedly fail to detect and avoid counterfeit parts or otherwise fail to exercise due diligence in the detection and avoidance of counterfeit parts.

• Finally, the amendment requires DOD to define the term “counterfeit part” – a critical and long overdue step toward getting a handle on this problem.

For a more detailed list of provisions, see:

Vibration Analysis as a Counterfeit Dectection Tool

“Vibration analysis is performed to identify defects or drifts in electronic equipment across various stages of its life. Vibration test systems are first employed to detect latent defects and faults in electrical, electromechanical, electronic and mechanical hardware at the manufacturing stage,” according to Importance of Vibration Testing for Electronic Equipment by Sam Jacob Thomas.

NJMET uses vibration analysis as part of our PIND (Particle Impact Noise Detection) testing to determine the authenticity of electronic components. We have recently discovered dangerous counterfeit components in two separate customer orders using PIND testing. For more information, see: Particle Impact Noise Detection Finds Non-Authentic Electronic Components.
PIND is just one process in NJMET’s Mission Imposter® Counterfeit Component Testing Program. Mission Imposter is a rigorous set of tests to determine the authenticity of electronic components.