Reminder of Why Not to Buy Suspected Counterfeit or Gray Market Products

Electronic Products and Technology,  ept.ca, one of Canada’s Leading Electronics websites published two articles that outline the risks of buying and using counterfeit components. The articles are  Why Buy Authentic? The Case Against Counterfeit Products and Protecting Yourself from Counterfeit and Gray Market Components.

In addition to the practices and precautions mentioned in the articles, it is strongly recommended that any components that are purchased without an authentic manufacturers C of C Certificate of compliance should undergo Fraudulent/Counterfeit Electronic Parts: Avoidance, Detection, Mitigation testing in accordance with SAE Aerospace standard AS6081.

 

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New JEDEC standard JESD243 Addresses Handling of Counterfeit Components

I would like to commend JEDEC on issuing JESD243 last month. This standard sets best practices that will make a difference in the ongoing fight to mitigate counterfeit product distribution. You can read JEDEC’s announcement of the standard here.

Not only do I feel it is an outstanding resource to manufacturers but more importantly its defined standards of a product return policy as well as a return verification and prohibition on the restocking of confirmed counterfeit parts is a great asset in tackling the never ending epidemic of counterfeit product distribution.

Lessons from the failed Phobos-Grunt Mars probe: use proper grade components and test them

Last fall, the Russian Space Agency launched the Phobos-Grunt Mars probe.  Its mission was to journey to Mars’ moon Phobos, collect samples and return to Earth.  About 11 minutes after launch, the spacecraft stalled in Earth orbit and went into safe mode.  Most of the craft burned up in the atmosphere, the rest of it fell into the Pacific Ocean on January 15th.

The investigation by the Russian space agency into the cause of the failure determined that non-space grade electronic chips were used in the spacecraft’s design.  Additionally, the report states that there was inadequate testing performed on the spacecraft’s components during the development process.

While there are issues with the official report’s conclusion that radiation caused the failure of the non-space grade components, this episode illustrates the problems that can be missed when there is inadequate testing of all electronic components during the design and development process.  Testing components over a wide range of environmental conditions is necessary to insure that they will work as intended.

Some counterfeit parts are inappropriate grade parts that have been modified (markings, etc.) to appear to be what they aren’t, for example using commercial grade parts in space. The story of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft illustrates why  counterfeit components must be eliminated from the supply chain.

Recycled Electronic Components

Keeping One Step Ahead of Counterfeit Electronic Components is a good short article on the need for counterfeit component testing.  Among other things, it talks about the need for extra vigilance when purchasing recycled components. 

Often the purchaser does not even know that they are buying recycled parts. Old parts, near the end of their lifecycle are harvested using harsh and inexact techniques. The parts are then cleaned, re-branded and sold as new.

Spotting Counterfeits — Blacktop Marking Tests Get More Sophisticated (Part 2)

Marking Permanency (Resistance to Solvents) Test:
The purpose of a Marking Permanency test is to verify that the component parts, when subjected to solvents, will maintain their correct markings. Counterfeit parts often have new markings which are not permanent; they will dissolve when the solvents are properly applied. Also, the solvents will reveal evidence of previous markings which have been sanded off or otherwise replaced by the false markings.

Various Military Standard procedures are used which incorporate processes of working with several chemicals mixed appropriately and in detail is in accordance with the specifications. These chemicals consist of Aliphatic alcohol, mineral spirits, ethyl-benzene, organic solvents, de-ionized water, propylene glycol monomethyl either, or monoethanloamine.

Once properly mixed the components are submerged in a three phase process and analyzed in accordance with MIL-HBK-130 to uncover evidence of damage to the device and any specified markings which are missing in whole or in part, faded, smeared, blurred, or shifted (dislodged) to the extent that they cannot be readily identified from a distance of at least 15.0cm (6 inches) with normal room lighting and without the aid of magnification or with a viewer having a magnification no greater than 3X. In some cases, a strategic acetone wash will be used to reveal sanding marks and facets of previous markings.

Blacktop marking is just one test in a multistep process used to discover counterfeit electronic components. Other tests include closely checking the physical dimensions and the packaging as well as the performance of the chips. Counterfeit electronic components are on the rise in both military and civilian products. As the counterfeiting gets more sophisticated, testing houses continue to develop finely tuned procedures to separate the fake goods from the real parts.

Group A Electrical Testing

Group A testing is industry terminology for testing the component device’s full functional and parametric require-ments at the recommended manufacturer’s or specific industry extreme operating temperatures as presented in this table.

Industry Temperatures Test Objectives
Commercial 0°C – 70°C DC, AC Functional and Parametric Testing
Industrial -40°C – +85°C DC, AC Functional and Parametric Testing
Automotive -45°C – +110°C DC, AC Functional and Parametric Testing
Military / Aerospace -55°C – +125°C Subgroups 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8A, 8B. 9, 10, 11
Space -65°C – +150°C Subgroups 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8A, 8B. 9, 10, 11

The test objectives are to exercise the DC and AC functional and parametric requirements as indicated on the in-dustry specifications. In cases of military, aerospace, and space design, the respective subgroups contained in those documents would suffice for the objective tests.

Radiographic Inspection and Internal Visual Verification

Radiographic Inspection
After checking the Physical Dimensions, Real-time X-ray and shadowgraph X-rays are performed to observe evidence of counterfeiting by analyzing the die size and wire bonding and to uncover any possible delaminations.
Internal Visual Verification
Component samples are delidded, and an internal inspection is made. The die is checked for defects, and the manufacturer’s logo on the die must match that on the lid of the component. The die topography also is analyzed to see if it meets the outline of the manufacturer’s requirements.
The component is placed under a high-powered microscope and verified against the manufacturer’s specifications. Photographs of this process are taken each step of the way. In the event of insufficient verification data, engineer-ing consultation will refer to other methodologies in the process to uncover counterfeit or cloned devices.

Physical Dimensions and Marking Permanency

Over the past few years, NJMET’s testing has encountered new techniques of blacktop marking that could easily pass the MIL Handbook resistance to solvents criteria. We have researched methods to test for these new techniques as well.

Physical Dimensions
The height, length, width, and depth as well as arc angle, curvature measure, and pin-count of the devices are checked. This ensures all data meets the manufacturer’s specification and that there is no evidence that the components have been altered.
Marking Permanency
The purpose of this test is to verify that the markings will not become illegible on the component parts when subjected to solvents. (See picture.) Various military standard procedures are used that incorporate several chemicals mixed appropriately and in detail in accordance with the specifications. These chemicals consist of aliphatic alcohol, mineral spirits, ethyl-benzene, organic solvents, deionized water, propylene glycol monomethyl ether, or monoethanolamine.

Once the chemicals are mixed, the components are submerged in a three-phase process and analyzed in accordance with MIL-HBK-130 to uncover evidence of damage to the device and any specified markings. The analysis includes missing markings in whole or in part or those that appear, faded, smeared, blurred, or shifted to the extent that they cannot be readily identified from a distance of at least 6 inches with normal room lighting and without the aid of magnification.

NJMET: Mission Imposter electronic component with suspect markings
NJMET's Mission Imposter testing finds components with suspect markings.

In some cases, a strategic acetone wash is used to reveal sanding marks and facets of previous markings. Over the past few years, new techniques of blacktop marking have been discovered that could easily pass the MIL Handbook resistance to solvents criteria.  We have researched methods to test for these new techniques as well.

Counterfeit Electronic Components

Imposters seem to be creeping into all facets of our life: fake IDs, knock-off designer handbags, and now even into our electronic components supply. Thanks to a program originated at NJMET, the imitation electronic devices that began infiltrating the industry close to a decade ago now can be detected.

NJMET created Mission Imposter®, the first program that detects counterfeit electronics before they find their way into customers’ products. The process begins with analyzing the shipping and packaging. It continues with the parts undergoing several levels of inspection including marking and dimensional checks, internal visual analysis, several levels of material analysis, and electrical testing to determine as well as ensure authenticity. In total, there are 15 options in this process to uncover counterfeit or cloned devices.
Over the next several posts, I will briefly explain each of these procedures. In the meantime, if you want to know more, check out the Mission Imposter pages on the NJMET website: http://www.njmetmtl.com/mission.aspx