Spot the Fake: 5 Ways to Identify Counterfeit Electronic Components

 October 26th, 2023 |   By Area51 Electronics  |   0 Comments

The amount of money American businesses lose every year due to counterfeit parts is staggering. The impacts of counterfeit components extend beyond financial setbacks, causing severe consequences such as damage to reputation, threats to national security, and even potential life-or-death situations. 

Counterfeit components are hard to detect and come in many different forms. These include components that have been remarked, overproduced, plagued by defects, cloned, tampered with, or accompanied by forged documentation. Regardless of the type of counterfeit electronic component, the bottom line is, these counterfeits have not undergone the rigorous quality control testing necessary to ensure their suitability for high-demand or extreme operating environments.

To help you better detect if your electronic components are counterfeit or not, we’ve prepared a list of five ways to determine if an electronic component is counterfeit. 

 1. External Visual Inspection (EVI)

One of the easiest ways to find out if your parts are counterfeit is by taking a look at the part visually. It is recommended to compare the part you received with a part that you know is an authentic component. Common mistakes with counterfeit parts are inconsistencies within the same date and/or lot code with the following: 

  • Part marking styles
  • Country of origin
  • Body molds
  • Backside markings
 2. Scanning Acoustic Microscope

Scanning Acoustic Microscope (SAM) is used to locate etching underneath blacktopping. If this exists, this is a sign that resurfacing was used to cover up the original markings. Luckily, this is a non-destructive test, so the component can be used if it is determined to be authentic.

 3. X-Ray Inspection

X-ray inspection can show missing or inconsistent die sizes, delamination, and broken or missing wire bonds. This type of test allows you to look at more of the internal structure of the component and find things that are not visible to the naked eye. This is also a non-destructive test as long as the cumulative radiation exposure to the component does not exceed the manufacturer’s specification.

4. Decapsulation

Decapsulation is a destructive test that places abrasive acids on the surface of a component until the internal dye reveals itself. This allows for internal analysis of the electronic component. The internal parts are tested against the parts of the original design of the component. This test helps test the die markings, layout, and bond integrity of the component.

5. Scrape or Acetone Test

An acetone test is also a destructive test used to discover if the component has been blacktopped and resurfaced. Acetone is applied to the component and if the swab turns black or another color, the part may have been coated. If the part fails the acetone test, it may not be an original part. However, it’s important to note that the acetone test may not always be the best fit because manufacturers have been known to resurface parts for legitimate reasons.

A scrape test is another destructive test that can be performed to see if the component was blacktopped and resurfaced for illegitimate reasons. Instead of using acetone, use a sharp blade to scrape the surface of the device. If a blacktopping has occurred, a coating will flake or peel off during the scrape test revealing visible sanding marks or prior part markings. 

Protecting your business and customers from counterfeit electronic components is essential for remaining profitable, keeping your customers safe, and staying in good standing within the community. But you don’t have to determine if an electronic component is counterfeit all on your own. There are trusted companies who specialize in counterfeit detection and want to help you. 

We Can Help You Spot the Fakes

Area51 Electronics is a minority-owned global distributor of electronic, electrical, and electromechanical components, hardware, and assemblies. We adhere to the strictest protocols for achieving genuine, authentic, verified electronic parts. We carry the highest level of care, quality assurance, and counterfeit mitigation possible. 

Contact us today.

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