Increasingly sophisticated schemes require authenticity testing to keep fake parts out and protect your business reputation
Counterfeit parts are now so common the question is hardly if but when they will cross paths with your electronic products.
Ironically, one of our team members — an expert in authenticity testing — recently ran into a common scheme on a large online reseller platform. In this case, the buyer accused him of sending a counterfeit in an attempt to start an exchange process during which the buyer himself tried to send back a counterfeit product in return for one with authentic parts.
Needless to say, our team member saw through the scam, but others, who lack the same experience, may not be so quick to end the transaction.
The problem with counterfeits seeping into the manufacturing supply chains is not new, of course. Nearly 10 years ago, experts warned the proliferation of counterfeits was a “ticking time bomb,” threatening the integrity of products and adding new levels of liability and risk for manufacturers in a range of industries.
Since then, the best minds in high tech have been forced to keep pace with an increasingly sophisticated counterfeit black market, which costs the global economy in the excess of $300 billion annually.
Not long ago, counterfeit electronic components used to be relatively easy to identify because counterfeiters manufactured them quickly with little attention to detail. But as the market grew, so too did the skill of overseas suppliers creating counterfeit products.
For the military and medical verticals, deceptively labeled parts pose a potentially lethal threat, devoid as these parts are of any required testing for temperature fluctuations, vibration, humidity, and other conditions.
But even catastrophic consequences aside, fake parts are simply bad for business. Modern consumers pay for an experience and subpar components tarnish the expectation of superior performance. The price is paid in bad reviews and a deteriorating business reputation.
So, what can a business do to authenticate electronic parts?
We recently partnered with a leading e-commerce platform, concerned with the integrity of its resellers. Like any organization that creates electronic assets from refurbished components, it is essential to your reputation and the reputation of your resellers that you authenticate your products and detect any counterfeits before they go to market.
If, let’s say, a battery or charger is replaced with a counterfeit, the product lifespan may suffer to the tune of growing customer dissatisfaction (or, even worse, cause high-profile disasters like explosions and fires). Counterfeits have also been known to contain malware designed to steal personal information.
In the case of the e-commerce platform, we set up a so-called Secret Shopper Program. The outline typically looks like this:
- The secret shopper program is entirely secure.
We use an offsite receiving location to maintain the secret shopper program’s confidentiality and keep the program (and the assets) secure.
- Electronics sold under your brand name are tested and authenticated.
Our experts inspect, test, and authenticate electronics sold under your brand name.
- You receive a full report of the results.
You receive a comprehensive report detailing the authenticity and quality of the assets resellers are marketing under your brand.
What does authenticity testing entail?
By now, most of you have heard the stories of electronic parts being harvested from e-waste overseas and put through a wringer of treatments to conceal their origins. Despite all the efforts to tackle the problem, EPS News notes inconsistent practices for identifying and eliminating suspect components within the electronics supply chain mean industries often have to rely on self-policing.
When inauthentic components finally reach the first step of our authenticity testing — visual inspection — they would, in many instances, to the average person look like perfectly new or high-quality parts. We have noted electronics accessories are particularly hard hit by counterfeits as those parts tend to be easier to replicate.
To put the parts to the test and distinguish the good from the bad, we have developed proprietary methods, including the following four areas of inspection:
- Visual inspection.
Advancements in counterfeiting have made it more difficult to identify irregularities. Today, we look for sizing measurements that deviate from the specifications on the OCM datasheet, component markings, mold cavities, and evidence of blacktopping. The presence of serial numbers is examined and compared with the original specs.
- X-ray inspection.
It is much more difficult to duplicate the interior of an electronics component. The most common irregularities identified by x-ray inspection include die sizing, lead-frame, wire bonds, incorrect wire-bonding diagram, missing die, and variations in die bonding.
- Electrical testing.
Electrical testing measures the functional and parametric requirements at extreme operating temperatures.
Decapsulation uses acids, bases, and solvents to remove the mold compound covering the die, allowing inspectors to view the component’s inner workings with a high-powered microscope to identify irregularities.
Authenticity testing gives you peace of mind and protects the reputation of both you and your resellers. In an environment where counterfeits are omnipresent, it’s a crucial step to safeguarding your business.
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