The Tricks They Play - A Gallery of Counterfeit Examples
A Growing Business
Counterfeiting of electronic components has become big
business in many parts of the world, but nowhere more so today than in China. U.S. electronics "recyclers" divert containers full of scrapped
circuit boards into Hong Kong, where they are smuggled across the border into mainland China. There the chips are stripped from the boards
and become the raw material for the counterfeit industry.
Violation of intellectual property rights is rampant and for the most
part is simply ignored by local Chinese authorities, allowing trade in counterfeit goods to flourish.
These counterfeiters prey on U.S. businesses looking for "bargain" pricing, or brokers who are either unscrupulous enough or simply too
inexperienced to properly manage their own supply sources.
Manufacturers facilitate the trade as well by not properly screening their independent distributors, or requiring quality certifications, etc.
Please see our section on "Distributor Qualifications" for more information.
Please contact us to contribute an image depicting an aspect of
electronic component counterfeiting not represented in the photos below. Your contribution could help
someone else combat counterfeits.
Some problems are more immediately apparent than others. A simple observation of the quality of the
markings, or even misspelling within the logo can expose the deception, as on the integrated circuit depicted
here. This batch of parts caused burning on the circuit card, resulting in a total loss because the
damage was too extensive to rework.
Note the misspelling in the logo ‘PHILIS’ instead of ‘PHILIPS’. The markings
were offset printed instead of laser etched.
Another case shows markings that do not meet
marking permanency requirements and demonstrateS an attempt to rework
recycled parts pulled from boards as be passed off as more expensive, high reliability parts.
The marking permanency tests require exposing the parts to three different groups of common
solvents used in electronic manufacturing. Authentic parts should not be damaged by this test.
Compare both the top and the bottom markings of the part against a known, good sample. Check to ensure
the finish is even and matches on both faces.
In this instance, the marking on the bottom of the part was erased and the finish shows signs of center
abrasion. Additionally, a partial number is still visible to confirm this part had been altered.
A simple plating adhesion test shows that the fake markings were branded onto a new nickel plating
over a new gold plating.
This example demonstrates the critical importance of using a quality photographic microscope.
The new gold plating disguised the fact that broken leads were reworked by welding new legs to the part
and the solder on the unbroken leads was stripped off. The nickel plating on the lid hid the gold flash
that did not belong there. However, gold does not adhere well to the base metal and is removed by
simply peeling with adhesive tape.
These two parts were both laser etched but differ in the font styles and in the marking content. The
date code 0028 parts were breaking apart during the constant acceleration test at the 30,000g level and
had a high failure rate during the hermetic seal test.
They also differed electrically with the date code 0028 part failing every test.
This photo shows the internal markings of the above part, by doing a de-lid.
The 0028 date code was a valid QPL period for the Analog Devices part; but the mask number shows
the wrong part number, ‘AD7581’ and not the correct ‘AD7582’.
This type of counterfeiting occurs when a hard to locate part can be replaced with a part more
readily available from scrap.
This part had a slight discrepancy in printing, where the lower case ‘r’ in
‘StrongARM’ was lower than all the other letters.
X-ray photography provides another inspection and diagnostic technique to reveal issues.
This x-ray shows that all the wires are swept and broken in this part.
This x-ray of another part shows that all the wires are missing inside.
Do your suppliers have the inspection experience needed to mitigate your risk of receiving counterfeits?