Retronix Blog

Jun 28, 2017

Anyone working in electronics design, manufacturing, sourcing or engineering will have a story about counterfeit components.



Source LinkedIn :Rob Ronan (UK Sales & Support Manager | Retronix)

Anyone working in electronics design, manufacturing, sourcing or engineering will have a story about counterfeit components. And I am no different, after 13 years at a Contract Electronics Manufacturer in varying engineering and customer support roles I have plenty to tell..!


The tide of counterfeits making their way into assemblies has slowed down over the last few years, but I don’t believe that the flow of the components being made and sold has slowed that much at all. We have all just become a little smarter when it comes to the identification of the parts at the early stages. In the CEM that I worked for, I started and headed up an internal Counterfeit Avoidance Group to identify these parts at a goods in stage rather than in previous years when the parts would not be identified until the flying probe, test or X-Ray stages. At this point the parts are fitted to the assemblies and the implications are far wider than if the parts are identified and destroyed at goods in.

From a CEM point of view, most counterfeit parts would come via free issue kits from customers or when customer time scales would force you to dip a toe into the grey market.

The industry has become smarter and I am sure more and more CEMs and OEMs have set up similar internal groups to identify parts when they arrive. And industry sharing has helped with this as well, both the company I worked for and a competitor had a 50/50 split of work from a large OEM and we would share information between us when it came to any suspect parts that may be designed into this customers assemblies. If one found an issue with a part then the other would be made aware. This kind of openness is not what competing CEMs are really known for…! But it shows the scale of the problem and that any action would be taken to help against the common enemy.

The various websites and groups set up to report counterfeit parts are also a good example of the industry sharing the issues they are seeing. This took a while to get off the ground due to that British fear of “airing your dirty washing in public” but once that had settled down and people could see that we all had the same problem, then these websites became a great resource for companies. They enabled purchasers and engineers to run part numbers through the search engines and see if a part was on a “watch list” and that would show what the suspicion was, how it was identified, who supplied it, date codes and things to look out for.


While these websites are a great resource, I cannot believe that the counterfeiters themselves are not looking at them and seeing how we are discovering these fake parts, and, then adjusting their process accordingly to make the parts look even more genuine and be able to withstand more of the first level testing that companies purchasing them are putting into place. So, there is a risk that the parts that we are now seeing entering the distribution chain are a bit more robust to the basic tests that most CEMs, component distributors and OEMs would carry out on site.

And this is where my current company would step in, Retronix has a test department dedicated to identification of counterfeit parts, along with the best tools for this process we also have years of experience, earned from dealing with this issue for numerous customers in varying sectors of the industry.

The services we offer are listed below:

  • Visual inspection
  • Heated Dynasolve wipe tests
  • X-Ray inspection
  • Ionic contamination
  • XRF
  • Solderability testing  
  • Key function testing
  • Electrical curve trace testing
  • Extreme temperature testing
  • Decapsulation  


We can take a component through a part cycle or a full cycle, the best option is determined based on component type and then implementing these tests in the best order. In some cases, an X-Ray is enough to identify that the part is fake, in other cases we would have to include more steps to assure the customer that the part is genuine, second life or a fake.  And recent cases show that these parts are proving more robust to simple tests and we have had to utilise more testing options.


More information can be found here

Source LinkedIn :Rob Ronan (UK Sales & Support Manager | Retronix) , Connect with Rob on LinkedIn (Click Here)

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