I just read a very interesting article from our associates over at MuAnalysis on the subject of counterfeit components in the electronics supply chain. While it is difficult to estimate the total damage this issue causes the electronics industry every year, it’s not hard to believe that it can be huge for all concerned.
In 2005, Dell announced a $300M one-time charge to cover the cost of repairing thousands of PCs sold with defective capacitors. The cause of the defective capacitors, in a now-infamous case of industrial espionage, was a stolen (and incomplete) electrolyte formula. This incident was several steps up the value chain, but Dell was ultimately on the hook for the repairs.
This case illustrates the risk taken by manufacturers and distributers at all points along the value chain. In Dell’s case, it would have been very difficult to detect the issue in advance, but this is not always the case. Martine from MuAnalysis points out some available approaches to mitigating this risk:
- Acoustic microscopy for damaged dies
- X-Ray fluorescence for residual lead
- Measure length & width for outright fakes
- Lot & date code mismatches for salvaged defectives
We’ve encountered our share of counterfeit components as well, and it’s obviously very frustrating when it happens. The accompanying video on EPT shows some fascinating images of defective and counterfeit parts they’ve uncovered.
--Jason White, Product Manager