Amid supply chain disruption and chip shortages, the market was flooded with remarked, counterfeit parts and electronic components of substandard quality.
In 2023, foundries continue to struggle to manufacture components quickly enough to meet customer demand. Global uncertainty has only added to the concerns, including growing tension between the U.S., E.U., and China. While there are signs that the semiconductor shortage is easing, some experts expect to see supply chain problems running into 2024.
Companies have been forced to look at alternative sourcing to fulfill orders and keep production lines running, which introduces additional risk. At the same time, reports of suspected counterfeits and nonconforming parts have risen by more than 35% according to Electronic Resellers Association International (ERAI). Reports indicate a significant increase in outright counterfeits and remarking (blacktopping) sub-par components as higher-priced devices.
The Dangers of Counterfeit and Subpar Semiconductors
Counterfeit parts and faulty components have led to significant recalls, unplanned expenses, and failures.
In some cases, counterfeit components can take lives. Indeed, an investigation into the death of First Lt. David Schmitz, an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, uncovered key components of the plane’s ejection system that were substandard and may have been counterfeit. According to the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), counterfeit components cost U.S. semiconductor companies more than $7.5 billion annually. Renata Jungo Brüngger, head of legal affairs for Mercedes-Benz, recently said that counterfeit parts have become a big business for unscrupulous actors with structures rivaling organized crime structures and often generating “higher profits than drug trafficking.”
Both the US and EU have warned that fake chips and components are a threat to national security.
Rigorous Component Testing and Validation Are Essential
Manufacturers must conduct thorough testing of parts as part of the due diligence process to ensure quality and mitigate risks. Even with OEM parts, a single defect in a microchip can lead to costly recalls and failures. A rigorous inspection provides confidence that manufacturers are getting electronic components that are genuine and meet the standards required.
The Difference Between Quality Control and Quality Inspection
Quality control includes the processes and checks that manufacturers put in place to make sure products meet quality standards. With counterfeit or suspect components, you can’t verify that such quality controls are being deployed without inspections and testing.
Quality inspections, on the other hand, are intended to verify that a component meets the specifications and performance criteria.
Conducting Anti-Counterfeit Inspection
This testing provides assurance and validation that parts meet manufacturer standards. For example, Sensible Micro has an in-house anti-counterfeit inspection lab that conducts testing, including visual inspections, meeting IDE-STD-1010-B standards. This includes a 72-point visual confirmation on every order whether parts arrive straight from the factory or through other distribution channels.
Testing capabilities including high-power microscopy and marking permanency to uncover visual imperfections and signs of counterfeiting, such as remarking. X-ray inspections of electronic components can examine the inner workings of a part, such as:
- Inconsistent die sizing or lead-frame
- Broken or missing wire bonds
- Incorrect wire-bonding
- Missing die
- Variations in die bonding
Decapsulation/Delidding removes the mold compound covering the die, allowing a high-powered microscope to look inside components to visually inspect for irregularities. These quality control inspections are crucial to detecting discrepancies and comparing components to manufacturer specs against a golden sample.
Other testing capabilities include:
- Low power electrical
- BGA & QFN analysis
- Heated solvents analysis
- Solderability screening
- XRF analysis
- Automated reel to reel
- Curve trace analysis
- Moisture baking
- 3D imaging
Sensible Micro also has an in-house lab facility to support custom flow-down inspections and quality control test plans that align with the manufacturer’s quality engineering initiatives. Sensible Micro can also help create a General Counterfeit Avoidance Test (GCAT) plan to support manufacturer applications and end-user requirements.
Inspection and Quality Control in Manufacturing
Where you buy your semiconductors can make a big difference. Ordering your components from the right electronics supplier that performs rigorous testing can help protect your business and provide the quality assurance you demand. Sensible Micro’s advanced inspection lab performs full counterfeit avoidance testing to detect suspect components.
To learn more about how Sensible Micro can help you with QA and avoid counterfeit, subpar, or remarked parts, contact the semiconductor experts at Sensible Micro today.