Monday, 22 July 2013

Implementing faulty/counterfeit ICs in the supply chain can be dangerous. What are the options to avoid this?

It is well known that it can be difficult to find a genuine and reliable supply of electronic components particularly when they are scarce or out of production by the original manufacturer. Although refurbished components are sometimes frowned upon for being 'unsafe' and therefore are not a part of the PCB repair process, sometimes this can be the only solution to get around components which are scarce or hard to source.
Especially for a component supplier or broker, the biggest risk is loss of credibility; should a faulty, substandard or counterfeit IC be sold to one of the customers, and hence to avoid or substantially reduce the risk of this to occur; component test is advised. But what are the different tests that can be performed? Listed below are a few of the important tests that are done on a sample or even the whole batch at times to determine authenticity:

Visual Inspection : This is a very effective component testing method, by using optical inspection it can be determined if the components are in good condition, whether there are any damages or any minute defects.

XRF Analysis : This is a non-destructive method to determine what alloy the termination consists of. This is particularly useful for businesses belonging to the high reliability industries such as defence, medical, aerospace, Oil & Gas sectors.

Solderability Test : This test verifies whether the component is re-solderable and also if it is good enough to be placed back on a PCB with reflow.

Electrical Test: Also known as BEST (BGA & Electrical Silicon Test) used to check the electrical parameters of every pin to pin e.g. current, voltage, diode resistivity, and silicon connectivity. 

Key Function Test : Some devices may need tested by creating a circuit to ensure that they are operating as expected. With the help of the component datasheet, a circuit can be created and the key aspects of the IC can be checked. For example MOSFETs can be tested to confirm that they still meet the manufacturer's specifications.

Flash Memory Test / Memory Programming : Components can be programmed to check for counterfeit programmable components. Device ID codes can confirm if the devices were blank or programmed. Already programmed FLASH parts can be erased back to factory default settings.

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