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April 24, 2018

How to Detect Counterfeit Components?

I'm exploring issues with counterfeit components and would like to know the best technologies available to detect counterfeit devices. Can X-ray or other inspection solutions detect counterfeit components?

P.S.

Expert Panel Responses

I would suggest X-RAY and FTIR on the molded plastic to compare to a mold material. This will tell if the plastic is different. X-Ray will tell if there is wire bonds and if the IC is present.

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Terry Munson
President/Senior Technical Consultant
Foresite
Mr. Munson, President and Founder of Foresite, has extensive electronics industry experience applying Ion Chromatography analytical techniques to a wide spectrum of manufacturing applications.

A visual check will work much better when you look for the following:
  1. Incomplete logos and/or they can be easily erased
  2. Different letter fonts
  3. Wrong manufacturing plant code
  4. Extra markings on the component's body
  5. Wrong material or color
  6. Component leads are very dull or show oxidation
  7. Wrong packaging (tape & reel vs. bulk)


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Edithel Marietti
Senior Manufacturing Engineer
Northrop Grumman
Edithel is a chemical engineer with 20 year experience in manufacturing & process development for electronic contract manufacturers in US as well as some major OEM's. Involved in SMT, Reflow, Wave and other assembly operations entailing conformal coating and robotics.

Many of my customers ask me about a counterfeit components risk mitigation testing strategy. Typically, there are several industry testing methods referred to ; IDEA, CCAP, QTSL, SAE AS6081/6171, along with DLA testing methods. Each of these has a list of tests required along with equipment required to utilize to comply. Only the SAE6171 references a confidence calculation across testing performed. Once you review some of these you will see descriptions around External Visual Inspection, Resistance to Solvents(RTS), Radiological Inspection(X-ray), XRF, Delid/Decapsulation Internal Inspection, Remarking /Resurfacing Inspection , SEM/EDX, CSAM, Hermeticity, Electrical Testing, etc.

Your specific inspection below only utilizing X-ray and may detect lead frame differences as a example which could indicate a suspect counterfeit device . But, my recommendation is to review methodologies listed above and decide ( e.g., SAE AS6171) to utilize a combined testing methods inspection technique. But, a reminder that none of these methods individually or combined is perfect. Hence you will have to assess testing involved, cost required, and most of all what's your acceptable risk to utilize.

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Mark Northrup
VP of Advanced Technical Operations
IEC Electronics
Mark has over 25 years' experience in electronics fabrication, quality and reliability while working for IEC Electronics, GE, Motorola, ORS, etc. He has most recently established IEC Electronics Analysis and Testing Laboratories (IATL), LLC in Albuquerque, NM for electronics and material analysis testing in the military, medical, and industrial industries. His area of expertise includes PCB, PCBA, components, analytical and electrical analysis techniques.

The best approach? Don't buy from brokers. Buying from direct or from authorized resellers reduces counterfeit risk by 99.99%. Why would you do anything else?

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Dr. Craig D. Hillman
CEO & Managing Partner
DfR Solutions
Dr. Hillman's specialties include best practices in Design for Reliability, strategies for transitioning to Pb-free, supplier qualification, passive component technology and printed board failure mechanisms.

There are a few powerful inspection techniques you need to deploy to effectively detect counterfeit components. I'm not going to cover supplier qualification and audits, things you need to do prior to acquiring components from anyone. From an inspection perspective, here are some of the techniques you need to have:
  • Shipping materials: check bar code labels and overall integrity of all shipping materials, including ESD bags. Yes, we've seen counterfeited ESD bags and even fake humidity paper indicator.
  • Component visual inspection: using a good microscope, check for marking quality and lead integrity. Everything that might give you a clue the part has been remarked.
  • Resistance to solvents: the black top of the components must resist the application of solvents. Acetone is a common one used in the industry.
  • X-ray: x-ray inspection is the most powerful non-destructive tool in your arsenal to find counterfeit components.
X-rays will allow you to check for:
  1. Lot conformity: assure that all components look the same.
  2. Datasheet comparison: based on pinout of the part, assess if it matches internal wire bonding scheme of the component inspected.
  3. Internal defects: check if components have any internal defects that may be result of mishandling or improper storage.
  4. Golden sample: if you have a golden sample of the component, you can compare against the new lot and check for anomalies.
  5. External defects: look for package level defects. Excessive ball voiding, for example, might indicate an improperly reballed BGA.
  6. Die attach voiding: excessive die attach voiding may indicate delimitation of the package.
To allow you to properly inspect components in reels and trays, your x-ray machine needs to excel at these 3 points:
  1. Resolution: x-ray system must be able to resolve small features inside the package. Look for resolution in the 1 to 5um range. Keep in mind you're looking for an x-ray machine for counterfeit detection, not failure analysis.
  2. Field of view: must be large enough to capture the whole component when needed. I'd recommend at least 4" of FOV.
  3. Automation: both software and hardware automation is a must. Depending on the component, you'll need to run x-ray 100% inspection of components in reels and trays, so hardware automation is needed so an operator doesn't have to manually inspect each sample and save an image of each component. Software automation is also needed so algorithms can quickly compare all images acquired and point out potential problems.
Other techniques can also be used as needed, including decapsulation, XRF, electrical tests, and other levels of material analysis. To get started you'll need a good microscope and a good x-ray machine. These other techniques can be deployed as needed, and as requested by your customer.

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Dr. Bill Cardoso
CEO
Creative Electron
Founder and CEO of Creative Electron, the largest US manufacturer of x-ray machines for the electronics industry, Dr. Cardoso has over 20 years of experience in x-ray inspection. He's a frequent speaker at technical conferences, has over 120 published papers, and owns several patents in the field.

X Ray Imaging can be used to inspect & verify lead frame integrity of electronic components. X Ray Fluorescence can provide analytical fingerprint to verify manufacturing source of component package.

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Peter Greenland
Global Sales Director
Photonis USA
Mr. Greenland has 20 years electronics industry experience ranging from circuit board design to product support & repair services. Peter has spent the last 4 years at Pycon Inc. supporting customers that require high mix, low volume manufacturing solutions.