Counterfeit Components CD ROM – Launching in the US at IPC APEX EXPO

By Bob Willis

SMART Group is a member of ChipCheck, a European funded project looking at the problems associated with counterfeit components and a practical solution for the electronics industry. Nigel Burtt and Bob Willis from the SMART Group Technical Committee have contributed to an interactive CD-ROM on Counterfeit Components which is being released to the industry as a FREE download. The CD-ROM features both engineers answering many of the questions facing industry today and will be available at IPC APEX EXPO 2012.

Screen shot from the interactive CD ROM guide to counterfeit components

This project continues the Group’s activity on counterfeit components after running many successful workshops on the practical aspects of testing components. ChipCheck is coordinated and managed by TWI and the research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme managed by REA-Research Executive Agency ([FP7/2007-2013] under grant agreement no 262212.

Counterfeit electronic components are defined as substitutes or unauthorised copies of a product, a product used in which materials used or the performance of the product has changed without notice, or a substandard component misrepresented by the supplier. Counterfeit electronic components are a growing issue to the electronics industry. The consequential costs to electronics manufacturers, of inadvertently purchasing counterfeit components includes lost yield, field failures, product recalls and damage to reputation etc. This is not to mention the safety issue. Despite extra precautions taken for sourcing components for safety critical electronic systems, there have been reports of counterfeit components entering the supply chains for both the defence and aerospace industry.

Currently, manufacturers cannot check all components at goods inwards even if they wanted to due to the volume, the protective packaging and often the manpower required. The new EU FP7 part funded project ChipCheck seeks to address this with the development of a new inspection prototype. Further details on the project and its members are available at

The ChipCheck consortium is developing a new system to detect counterfeit components. To help test the system we require as many counterfeit electronic components as possible. Ideally, these components will be unused, but could be parts removed from an assembly. We are interested in receiving all package types and sizes to make sure the system and software recognition is capable of comparing the range of parts used in industry. The main focus will be surface mount; however, dual in-line parts will also be assessed. The source of the component will be kept completely anonymous. We’ll even consider purchasing counterfeit components if there are any for sale.

 The following are some useful things to consider during planning your counterfeit component strategy:

  • A simple approach to minimise counterfeit components passing through goods receipt to production is to create a Component Reference Database. Reference components and images of known good components can be used for future comparison. Reference component details should be obtained when a component is known to be going obsolescent, on long lead times, difficult to obtain or found to be in circulation as a counterfeit product
  • Where components are being used in existing products or being considered in new products that are single source, on long lead times they should be added to the component database. Where components are considered to be high risk, are knowingly purchased from a new source or the supplier has not been previously qualified, reference samples must be obtained for review and possible testing
  • A golden board assembly is often held in manufacture as a reference for build quality or as an inspection reference and could be used by good receipt staff. A reference source/photo guide should be compiled of existing qualified manufacturers’ logos, packing labels, SMT reel labels, outer packing labels for use at goods receipt inspection
  • Select and appoint an independent laboratory to conduct component testing when specialist tests may be required for independent verification. Provide an open order with the company so that urgent testing is not held up with internal paper work problems.

Bob Willis will be running four training workshops at IPC APEX EXPO 2012 on Counterfeit Components, Package On Package POP Assembly, Conformal Coating and QFN Assembly. He will also be running NPL Process Defect Clinic Live special feature area in the exhibition’s new home of San Diego, California.

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