Using complementary technologies to improve counterfeit component detection

Fig.1: X-ray images of $10 transimpedance diode – Real (L) and Counterfeit (R) (Courtesy Nordson Dage)

Counterfeit electronic components have long been an issue for OEMs in all sectors. Even the military isn’t immune – a 2012 report by the Senate Armed Services Committee uncovered 1,800 cases of counterfeit parts involving over one million units. And OEMs remain at risk, mostly due to pressures of supply and demand.

Ideally, OEMs would simply buy directly from the component manufacturers or their authorised distributors, where the supply chain is clearly visible and trustworthy. However, component shortages, whether due to product discontinuation or other reasons, can drive them to use other, unauthorised, channels, where lack of traceability can give counterfeits an opportunity to enter the supply chain.

Counterfeits can take many forms. Some, although correctly functional, are standard components sold as higher specification types. Others are relabelled, so their visible legend bears no relation to their internal functionality – if any functionality at all exists. Yet more may be the right parts, but with manufacturing faults. The correctly functional types represent the biggest threat to OEMs, because they could well pass factory tests, only to fail in service, with possibly catastrophic consequences for both user and supplier.

As an independent inspection and test solution provider, Cupio offers two industry leading counterfeit detection technology solutions. Both are effective defence tools, but, together, they provide a comprehensive ability to detect counterfeits, whether their functionality is right but inadequate, wrong, failed, or non-existent. The first involves X-ray inspection while the other uses electrical testing.

X-ray inspection

Cupio supplies Nordson DAGE’s Explorer™ one system for component X-ray inspection solutions. It allows users to quickly and easily see inside incoming components, and compare the results wi

High quality images are generated through using proprietary X-ray tube and flat panel detector technologies, together with advanced filtering; this allows detailed viewing of images down to 2 µm resolution.

Explorer™ one allows users to perform quality inspections quickly and easily after minimal training, to maximise throughput. Image feedback is provided in real time, while automated inspection routines can be set up to save time while inspecting batches of components.

Fig.2: Ultra-fast diode – Real (L) and Counterfeit (R) (Courtesy Nordson Dage)

Electrical testing

A device can be identified as a counterfeit if its performance doesn’t meet its published specification ; this can be checked using electrical testing, as performed by ABI Electronics’ Sentry Counterfeit IC Detector. Sentry operates by acquiring so-called PinPrints – see Fig.3 – of a reference device, for storage and comparison with components that need checking.

A device’s PinPrints are the electrical characteristics of each of its pins when submitted to a dynamic stimulus. Each pin’s response is directly related to the device’s nature, internal structure and manufacturing processes. The set of PinPrints thus acquired by Sentry becomes the unique ‘identification card’ for this device.

The Sentry can apply pin to multi pin checks to ensure that it finds the best combination of tests, to look at the input and output construction of the component.  Tolerances can be applied to these measurements and different sets can be taken for different manufacturers’ parts. These tests give the user a strong indication that the bond wire and die configuration within the device are the same as the master sample.

Sentry can be used by Goods Inward staff, with no electronics knowledge, to check incoming components’ validity. Engineers and technicians can also apply it to generate in-depth reports for failure analysis or discussion with suppliers.


Fig.3: PinPrint electrical characteristic traces (Courtesy ABI Electronics)

Andy Bonner, Technical Director at Cupio, comments: “While both approaches are effective in identifying many counterfeit types, each has its own advantages. For example, it makes great sense to use X-ray inspection to quickly verify the die and pin configuration without unpacking the parts, while electrical testing can identify faults that inspection alone cannot reveal, such as bad inputs and outputs on the die, while also allowing more in-depth analysis.

“Irrespective of the strategy chosen, though, its benefit of capturing substandard parts before they can fail in the field is enormous; this prevents not only risk to the user and cost to the supplier, but also the perhaps ineradicable loss of reputation that would ensue.”



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