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.

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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.

Job Opening at NJMET — Laboratory Analyst / Assistant / Laboratory Technician

NJMET has an opening in our Component Analysis Group for a Laboratory Analyst / Assistant / Laboratory Technician.  We are looking for someone with a solid electronics and chemistry background with a minimum 3 to 5 years relevant work experience / college degree and equivalent experience. (Electronics / Chemical Engineering or BS Chemistry)

  • Must be computer literate (current software)
  • Solid background in Electronics, Chemistry or Chemical Engineering
  • Must be fluent in English and possess good writing skills
  • Must possess an analytical mind
  • Must have outstanding laboratory report generation skills
  • Must have outstanding customer service skills.

Send resume and cover letter to Joseph Federico via:

  • Email: careers@njmet.com
  • fax: 973-546-1836
  • mail: NJMET, 1240 Main Ave. Clifton, NJ 07011

Testing Of Electronic Microcircuits

The following is another excerpt from my forthcoming book. The working title is “MISSION IMPOSTER: The Remedy to Detect Counterfeit Electronic Components.”

In recent years many non authentic electronic microcircuits or clones were discovered to work electronically. The question to the electronics industry became just how long will these devices work?

 Joseph Federico Vice President of NJMET, NJ illustrates the following synopsis of proper electrical testing protocols that should be exercised in testing a component for its functional and parametric performance.    

 The test objectives are to exercise the DC and AC Functional and Parametric requirements as indicated on the industry specifications. In cases of military, aerospace and space design, the respective subgroups contained in those documents would suffice for the objective tests. (See Group A Testing in an earlier post.)

 Electrical Testing Illustration

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

 “As an example, for a DM74LS244 octal 3-state buffer/line driver/line receiver, a kelvin/continuity test is performed first to check pin contact. Following this initial check, supply current, then several input current tests as well as off state output current, short circuit output current and output voltage tests are performed to analyze the DC characteristics”, said Joseph Federico.

Once completed, various propogation times are measured along with performing the device’s functional test in order to analyse the A.C. characteristics.

 “After testing electronic components for over thirty years I strongly feel that by exercising the proper testing methodologies above, the industry would have a more confident feeling on the distribution and performance of these products” said Federico.

 For more information on Electrical Testing of Electronic Microcircuits, please call Joseph Federico at NJMET, NJ at (973) 546-5393. Please visit NJMET at www.njmetmtl.com

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.

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