The next ‘headache’ of the global chip industry: Counterfeiting

Tram Ho

Starting with the first outbreak in January 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world from both sides of the law of supply and demand. And founder Steve Calabria of the Independent Distributors of Electronics Association (IDEA), believes a squeeze in both pincers will set off a rising tide in electronics. counterfeiting, resulting in a reduction in the life and reliability of equipment made with substandard components.

Supply, demand and counterfeit goods

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many industrial cities around the world to close temporarily or temporarily, limiting the supply of both finished products and raw materials. Meanwhile, demand for electronic products skyrocketed due to the shift towards remote work, study and entertainment.

The immediate impact of this shortage is that it is very difficult to buy a graphics card right now. Its influence is so far-reaching that manufacturer MSI is bringing the GeForce GT 730 model back from 2014. Honestly, the GT 730 graphics card offers just over half the performance of Intel’s integrated UHD graphics cards, and less than a fifth of the performance of the GTX 950 launched just a year later, 2015. But the point is that it can be produced and marketed, which is the most important thing right now.

Vấn đề đau đầu tiếp theo của ngành công nghiệp chip toàn cầu: Hàng giả - Ảnh 1.

MSI revived graphics cards from 2014 to temporarily quench the thirst of the market.

Of course, recovering an old product line and correctly labeling that product line is fine. But it’s an option only available to big and established manufacturers like MSI, a company with an old but valid manufacturing license and supply system. And in some cases, when its components are stored for a long time, they can still be picked up and put back to use. Meanwhile, smaller companies can hardly do this. And in the hope of making money from the current situation more quickly, they will easily fall into the trap of components such as counterfeit chips.

Things that are about to happen

“Worldwide shortages have opened the door for criminals to exploit the electronic components market,” Calabria said. And he added that he himself has seen the early signs of trouble. “Companies that have never been evaluated by any other company in the industry are showing significant parts shortages.”

Of course, counterfeit electronics is not a new problem. Fake iPhones, fake Kindles and many other things are still rife on e-commerce sites like Alibaba or even eBay, Amazon… for a long time. However, the fake chips target a slightly different market. Instead of going after the general consumer, counterfeit chips target production lines that are in danger of shutting down altogether.

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A fake FTDI chip (right) next to the real chip (left)

And apparently, it might be easier to manufacture a fake chip than an entire fake device. A consumer device needs an operating system, integrated hardware, and more. It makes most counterfeits easy to spot at first glance, especially for knowledgeable buyers. But counterfeiting the chips, which are used to make devices, is often much simpler, and especially so there’s very little indication that something’s wrong.

A counterfeit chip could be a cheap knockoff designed from the outset as a replacement part, or it could be a genuine part that was picked up from old equipment, removed from the board. circuit where it used to work, then cleaned and pressed back to work like a new product. Either way, such chips may perform well enough to pass initial tests, but fail sooner than genuine parts or under a certain load, or within a short period of time. environment that only the real version can overcome.

Desperate circumstances lead to desperate measures

Manufacturing companies are well aware of counterfeit chips and often have elaborate measures to detect and avoid them. But according to Diganta Das, a rogue electronics researcher at the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering (CALCE or the Center for Advanced Life Cycle Engineering), a research facility focused on risk assessment, management and reduce risks to electronic products and systems) those processes may be omitted when time does not permit.

“When a company needs 5,000 parts next week to keep a line running,” Das gives an example. “They won’t follow supplier verification rules or go through testing processes.”

Das said it is still too early to see an increase in reports of counterfeit parts, but like Calabria, he believes the increase in counterfeit components entering the supply chain is already happening. And that will become even more apparent in the coming months, as companies deal with the problems caused by the use of these prostheses.

Vấn đề đau đầu tiếp theo của ngành công nghiệp chip toàn cầu: Hàng giả - Ảnh 3.

Counterfeiting chips is clearly easier than counterfeiting an entire electronic device.

This is not an issue that is likely to affect the biggest tech manufacturing giants, as they often buy their parts directly from chip foundries, where they are produced in bulk. . This risk will affect companies that buy their components in smaller batches, from distributors in the supply chain. However, those distributors are also supplying components to manufacturers in a variety of industries such as healthcare, automotive and even defense.

One of those distributors, AERI, has put together a separate guide to spotting counterfeit components, with many helpful illustrations. For example, original components sometimes have small holes in certain places on the chip and counterfeiters may forget to copy them, filling these holes during sanding and refinishing ( process to make old parts look like new) or make them the wrong size, position or shape. Thus, these indentations serve the same purposes as the security bands or threads in banknotes.

But physical surface inspection is not always enough to spot the difference between a fake and a real one. In some cases, the examination requires a microscope and is time consuming.

Meanwhile, counterfeiters are well aware of the time pressures faced by companies in the industry and have sales pitches to target them. For example : “I have 5,000 of these parts in stock, but you need to buy them today, not next week”.

This claim can force a manufacturer desperate to find parts to accept to reduce doubts and forget about their usual supply chain verification process. But putting fragile prostheses into a product will only help prevent a supply crunch. In most cases, the question is whether the company accepts the option, losing money now because the line is not working or losing money later to pay for product replacement, compensation. lawsuits and mass product recalls.

Refer to arstechnica

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Source : Genk