ITRI pushes counterfeit component detection service

ITRI imageITRI Innovation has started actively promoting its counterfeit detection service for electronic components for the first time.

The company notes that electronics industry is currently witnessing a growth in component counterfeiting in which the supplier of parts to the assembler is often unaware. The complexity of the supply chain and the ingenuity of the counterfeiter mean it can be extremely difficult to detect that electronic components are counterfeit.

The UK company's laboratory manager Wayne Lam told that the service has been running for a while and grew out of its work providing solder joint and printed circuit boards (PCB) investigations. The decision to set up dedicated counterfeit testing was a natural extension because "the techniques and expertise are transferable".

"We started off with requests for a few reels/tubes of components and then received some suspected devices that required de-capsulation. Before long, we were finding that more and more customers were coming to us for the service," he said.

The service makes use of real time X-ray examination equipment - the Dage XiDAT 7600 NT - which is a machine primarily designed for inspecting PCBs. It can be used to detect discrepancies in bond wire configurations and lead frame patterns, as well as identifying the presence of a chip die, according to ITRI.

This testing can be supplemented by wet chemistry techniques and optical microscopy in which the component housing material is removed and the chip die is exposed. Material detection techniques such as XRF (X-ray fluorescence) and EDX (energy dispersive X-ray) can also be employed to check the terminations of the package for finish compliance, such as lead in a lead-free coating.

It has been estimated that counterfeit electronic components account for at least 2 per cent of the global market by sales revenues, according to the Electronic Components Supply Network. That equates to hundreds of millions of fake resistors, connectors, relays and semiconductors. Meanwhile the US Department of Commerce reported in 2011 that 50 per cent of all distributors had encountered counterfeit products.

"Generally speaking, if we get a tube or reel or tray of components for QA/QC examination, the counterfeiting rates are extremely low," said Lam.

"For individual suspect components being submitted for analysis, the rate is a lot higher, but this is expected since the component is usually one already identified for special attention."

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