Counterfeit Detection Services for the Integrated Circuit (IC) and Semiconductor industries

Counterfeit integrated circuits pose a significant threat to the global electronics component supply chain and are becoming more difficult to detect as the counterfeiters increase their level of sophistication. They are of great concern to industry and government because a system malfunction can present situations that cause mission failures, health and safety concerns, and could jeopardize national security; they can have a negative impact on brand reputation, and research and development efforts; counterfeits pose a reduction in reliability; and they channel substantial resources to criminal networks, organized crime and the illicit marketplace. It was estimated that the cost of counterfeiting and piracy for G20 nations was $450 to $650 billion in 2008 and will grow to $1.2 to1.7 trillion in 2015. In the past couple of years, numerous reports have uncovered the counterfeit issues in the United States electronics component supply chain. US Senate’s Armed Services Committee clearly identified counterfeit ICs as a major issue to address because of its significant implications on taxpayer money as well as the threat to the warfighter that can be associated with deploying counterfeit parts in DOD critical applications.

A counterfeit electronic component/part either 1) is an unauthorized copy; 2) does not conform to original component manufacturer (OCM) design, model, and/or performance standards; 3) is not produced by the OCM or is produced by unauthorized contractors;  4) is an off-specification, defective, or used OCM product sold as new; or 5) has incorrect or false markings and/or documentation. Based on the above, we classify the counterfeit types in seven distinct categories namely recycled, remarked, defective/out-of-spec, forged documentation, overproduced, cloned, and tampered.

Counterfeit electronic components are penetrating supply chain mostly through the gray market and due to the complexities of the global supply chain network. It is reported that in today's supply chain, more than 80% of the counterfeit components are recycled and remarked. Only 25% of electronic waste has been properly recycled in 2009 in the United States. That percent is even lower for other countries. Even if recycling is properly handled in the United States, countries that have been taking advantage of this large electronic waste as their resource for counterfeits have enough of their own electronic waste to have an indefinite supply of raw material for counterfeiting purposes.

Counterfeiting is a multidimensional problem due to the different counterfeit types, different defect taxonomies, and evolving nature of the counterfeiters. As industry comes up with new detection methods, the counterfeiters come up with new ways to evade detection. One cannot reach a definite conclusion whether a part is counterfeit or not by performing a simple test. A set of test methods is necessary for detection of counterfeit parts, and to achieve a desired confidence level that the part is not counterfeit based on what we know about counterfeiting today. The test methods can be classified into three distinct categories, namely, physical tests, environmental tests, and electrical tests.

Physical tests are mostly performed to verify the physical and chemical/material properties of the component, such as, package, leads, dies, etc and their chemical and material composition. These tests are classified into four major categories:

  • External Visual Inspection
  • Package Analysis
  • Delid/Internal Verification
  • Materials Analysis

Electrical tests are mostly applied to verify the correct functionality and performance of a component. These tests may be different for different types of components, namely, analog, microprocessors, programmable logic arrays, memories, etc. Automatic test equipment (ATE) may be required for some high-end digital and analog integrated circuits.

  • Parametric Tests
  • Functional Tests
  • Burn-In Tests
  • Structural Tests