The Electronic Components Industry Association (ECIA) has issued a warning from its Chief Counsel, Robin Gray, on the increasing threat of counterfeit parts getting into the supply chain during component shortages. ECIA encourages the electronics industry to continue to rely on the authorized channel for components, and to report any counterfeit component activity to the Department of Justice.
ECIA is tracking the challenges the industry faces due to component shortages, especially in passives such as multi-layer ceramic capacitors and certain semiconductors. Gray said that the ECIA’s component supplier member community is working on alleviating these issues. Long lead times and allocation conditions in the electronics supply chain are expected to continue throughout most of 2018, say industry executives.
Radiography (or x-ray inspection) is a ubiquitous technique to all recent and upcoming counterfeit detection standards, including IDEA 1010A/B, CCAP-101, AS5553, AS6081, and AS6171. X-ray inspection gives the user the unique ability to “see” what is inside an electronic component without damaging it. To illustrate how x-ray images represent an electronic component, Figure 1 (top) shows a simplified side view diagram of a typical plastic molded part. The top view x-ray of a real plastic molded component is shown in Figure 1 (bottom). The dark regions in the x-ray image represent dense areas in the component. Conversely, the light areas represent light areas in the field of view. For this reason, the area around the component is represented in white. The x-rays traveling through the different density areas of the component under inspection cast a shadow onto the x-ray sensor. Thus this x-ray imaging technique is also known as a shadowgram.
We’ve been developing x-ray systems and algorithms to find counterfeit components for over 10 years. What we’ve learned over these years is that the quality of counterfeit components continuously improves, thus making them harder to detect. The criminal enterprise that fabricates fake components has increased in volume and sophistication in the past decade. As a result, the techniques we need to deploy to detect these fakes also needs to increase in sophistication. Not long ago, we could detect most counterfeit components using a simple visual inspection. However, most components pass visual inspection today. That increases the importance of x-ray inspection as a powerful tool to check for lot uniformity and to assess component authenticity.
We don’t expect the counterfeit electronic component problem to reduce in volume and complexity. Au contraire, we expect it to continue its growth trajectory of the past decade. All economic incentives point in that direction. Therefore, as we present this work to find the counterfeit components of today, we will continue working on the next ten techniques to find the counterfeit components of tomorrow.
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