Testing by independent test houses - illustration of technicians inspecting a large microchip

Testing by independent test houses protects from the risk of counterfeit electronic components

The Electronics Reseller Association International states that there were up to 768 counterfeit electronic components in circulation during 2022, which represented an increase of 35% over 2021. While no one really knows how wide-spread the problem is, studies undertaken by the US Department of Defense and reported in Scientific American estimated that up to 15% of components destined specifically for military use were counterfeit.

Types of counterfeit electronic components

The University of Florida in the USA explains that there are seven types of counterfeits in the supply chain:

  • recycled,
  • remarked,
  • overproduced,
  • out-of-spec/defective,
  • cloned,
  • those with forged documentation, and
  • tampered.

Testing electronic components to identify counterfeits

Physical inspection or testing includes:

  • External package inspection to ensure that all the details are correct, including seals, colours, spelling, paper type, ink, fonts, etc. The moisture sensitivity level should also be checked against the OEM’s original datasheet.
  • Tape-and-reel packaging should be checked for consistent placement and for the presence of any burrs on the base holes of the reels, while the quality of the laminate should also be checked.
  • Individual components should be visually checked (with the aid of a magnifying lens where necessary) for physical usage marks, such as scuffs on the corners, bent leads and pins, and so on. These signs normally indicate that the part has been recycled from scrap electronics, and is being passed off as new.

Electrical testing, which is non-destructive, involves the use of x-rays or scanning acoustic microscopes (SAM) to conduct more specific checks on electronic components.

  • X-ray inspection is used to check for missing/inconsistent die sizes or attachments, for bond quality, delamination, voids, indents, and other inconsistences, as well as for part numbers and date codes
  • SAM is used to check for blacktopping or resurfacing, since it can detect an original laser etching beneath a superficial coating without damaging the component in the process.

For an in-depth article on why the problem keeps perpetuating, and is growing, interested readers can view this piece by industry expert Kevin Parmenter, director of field applications engineering, at Taiwan Semiconductor.

Independent testing houses external to the supply channel

While many reputable players offer testing through their own in-house departments, buyers may be reluctant to trust these, due to their lack of independence.

Here at Electronic Partner, we offer our customers access to professional testing of any batch of electronic components by specialized and independent testing houses that are completely external to the supply channel and therefore have no vested interest in demonstrating specific results for the tests. The electronic component testing is undertaken, and the results are sent to the customer for approval before the order is shipped from the warehouse, thereby saving the customer both time and money on the actual order, and the customer company’s reputation and people’s lives in the long term.

When you choose to source from Electronic Partner, you can be sure that everything possible will be done to ensure the authenticity of the products before you pay for and ship them.

Contact us today with your special quote requirements or with requests for hard-to-find, rare or obsolete electronic components.

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