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It is common knowledge in the electronics industry that counterfeit parts can cause serious, potentially fatal system failures. It is also known that the prevalence of counterfeits has increased to massive levels in the last decade. While there are numerous methods of alleviating this problem, most all of them are centered around some form of testing, which is meant to verify that the part is both legitimate and in the condition that the buyer believes it to be.
An additional reason to ensure that parts are adequately tested is liability. While no level of testing can guarantee a part is absolutely authentic, fully functional, and is not a used or cloned part, showing supplier due diligence is vital when product that is not procured from an authorized source is used. In some environments, such as the aerospace and defense industries, it is required. This article will demonstrate not only the importance of proper testing, but ways to determine both the ideal quality and degree of testing that should be performed--and how to identify when you are receiving this quality.
Counterfeiting is a serious problem with massive negative effects--economic and otherwise. According to the International Chamber of Commerce, “The cost of counterfeiting and piracy for G20 nations is as much as $775 billion (USD) every year,” as of 2008. In the same report that brought this fact to light, the cost of counterfeiting to G20 nations was expected to grow to $1.7 trillion annually by 2015. In addition to the ICC’s report, a report issued by the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2012 indicated that there were over one million counterfeit components in the United States military supply chain. These were indicated by the report to be a major concern due to their “significant impact on reliability and security of electronic systems." According to an article in the Journal of Electronic Testing entitled “Counterfeit Integrated Circuits: Detection, Avoidance, and the Challenges Ahead,” there are seven main types of supply chain vulnerabilities to counterfeit electronics.
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Editor's Note: This column originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of SMT Magazine.