‘Fake Parts’ Data as Perplexing as the Issue

Interesting report on counterfeit component trends, prepared by ERAI.  PLICs and microprocessors are the most commonly reported counterfeited parts.

One big takeaway: “Suspect/counterfeit parts that have not been previously reported are constantly entering the electronic supply chain and the threat of encountering one of these parts remains very high.”

All that said, the number of fake parts reported is minuscule — just 774 were reported to ERAI. As epidemiologists know, the best way to reduce risk and occurrence of negative outcomes is through research and communication.

Do Fakes Count?

The news today regarding the seizure by US Customs of nearly a quarter-million counterfeit electronics devices makes me wonder: Do the various industry market research data include all those faked goods?

Consider: Some reports claim as much as $100 billion a year worth of fake electronics products is trafficked. Given that the entire consumer electronics supply chain produces about $1.2 trillion worth of products per year, and most fakes are consumer goods, that’s a pretty good chunk to add to it.

Not all fakes work, of course. For years, “salesmen” would hawk counterfeit PCs outside the doors at Nepcon China. But they were missing most of the important parts — motherboard, CPU, memory, etc. Caveat emptor to those who fell for the scam.

But what’s changing is that in many instances, the knockoffs so closely resemble the look and functionality of the originals, it’s hard even for company officials to discern. And you don’t get there without using real parts, even if they are of lesser quality.

The wildest example I know of concerned NEC. A few years back, the Japanese computer and chip company learned of a massive multinational counterfeit ring which attempted to essentially recreate the entire company! More than 50 factories in China and Taiwan were producing faked NEC PCs and consumer handhelds.

Fifty factories is a scale that’s hard to hide. That’s a lot of production lines to buy, too. It makes you wonder if they were building them on knockoff SMT equipment.

New Blog Link

We’ve begun linking to Henry Livingston’s “Counterfeit Parts” blog. Livingston is an engineering fellow and technical director at BAE Systems Electronic Systems, where he is responsible for overseeing engineering activity for specifying components and evaluating their suitability for military and aerospace applications. He also is BAE’s subject matter expert in component engineering field, and is widely published on component reliability assessment, obsolescence management, semiconductor industry trends and counterfeit electronic components.

Parts Panic

Industry sources are telling me that for the past three to four months, some OEMs have been issuing waivers on incoming parts, basically saying “we don’t care if they are fake, just build the product.”

Given what we know about the extent of counterfeit components, that’s a galling attitude. Have we not learned that you can only kick the can so far down the road before the road rises and the can comes back and hits you in the face?

Expect more on this as I keep digging.