Counterfeit threats for electronic parts

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Counterfeit threats for electronic parts

Postby hqew2013 » Wed Jan 08, 2014 6:50 am

In an increasingly competitive marketplace surrounded by a global IT supply chain, there is growing concern about the use of counterfeit electronic parts in both commercial and military electronics. In a recent article, PCB materials: Recycle, reuse, dispose?, I wrote about the necessity of recycling end-of-life electronics in order to offset the growing mountain of electronic waste (e-waste). While the advantages for the environment to recycle e-waste are obvious, e-waste recycling is typically done in countries with low labor costs such as China and has introduced a new problem into the global electronic component supply chain.

A report from the Senate Armed Services Committee concluded that China is the dominant source of counterfeit electronic parts. The report describes how recycled electronic parts are washed in a river and dried on the riverbank then sorted by woman and children for resale as new in Shantou’s electronic counterfeiting district. The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) estimates that counterfeit parts cost U.S. semiconductor companies more than $7.5 billion per year in lost revenue. While the financial losses are significant, the greater threat is the use of counterfeit electronics parts in commercial transportation and military systems.

The report describes how counterfeit electronic parts from China made it into critical defense systems compromising national security and endangering the lives of military personnel. And the worst part is that the Chinese government is aware of the counterfeit market in China and refuses to do anything about it.

The problem is naturally extended to the commercial sector as well with the possibility of counterfeit parts being used in basically any computer system that we rely upon daily including transportation, communication and medical systems. This just gave someone like me, whom worries pretty much about everything, one more thing to worry about! My already irrational fear of flying will be exacerbated by the thought of how many counterfeit parts comprise our commercial airplanes. Image

Since the source, quality and reliability of counterfeit electrical parts are unknown, the potential health and safety risks due to fire, shock or explosion from their use in consumer electronics should not be neglected. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICCWBO) estimates that 80% of consumers in the developed and developing world regularly purchase products that include counterfeit parts and most are unaware that they are doing so or of the dangers that are involved.

The potential to earn tremendous profits through the sale of counterfeit parts and the lack of interest in circumventing the problem by the Chinese government, means that this issue is not going to go away any time soon. Thankfully, SMT PCB new programs have been established to raise awareness such as the US Government Industry Data Exchange Program (GIDEP), PCB circuit board a cooperative between government and industry to reduce expenditures by sharing technical information including equipment, parts and assemblies that are suspected to be counterfeit and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) that published anti-counterfeiting best practices and strategies in its ‘Piracy in electrical and electronic products’ report.

How about using DNA codes to mark and identify electronic components? Well, that is exactly what Applied DNA Sciences has been funded by the Defense Logistics Agency to do. The company’s component marking technique, SigNature DNA, uses custom botanical DNA to form an encrypted, unique and secure marker for virtually anything. The Defense Logistics Agency now requires the use of SigNature DNA by suppliers of key electronic components provided to the U.S. military. Hopefully commercial electronic manufacturers will also adopt this technique, and then as the great Dalai Lama said, “If there is a solution to the problem then don't waste time worrying about it”. I’ll keep that in mind when I fly to DesignCon next month.
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