Reasons increase to check authenticity of electronic components
"Don't judge a book by its cover" has never been more apt among electronics components as it is now. Electronic components' exterior packages may look alike, but the leads may contain lead when the systems manufacturer is seeking to comply with lead-free requirements, or the chip inside may be a counterfeit bought more cheaply by a third-party manufacturer, or a tape or bin of parts may just have been accidentally swapped at the dock or assembly line. "De-lidding" is an increasingly popular service to ensure that the parts used are the parts specified; the lid of a component package is lifted and a metallurgical microscope with software for a camera hook-up is used to capture images of the die inside the package, to check for authentic identification.
Some of the best-known manufacturers in the world can think they have one type of part, and then discover - or not - that the part is not what they thought. The stakes for making errors are higher in light of corporate customers (such as Sony, Nokia, Motorola) and global regions (such as the European Union - the RoHS Directive) requiring more benign substances as a condition for sale. "We received parts from a customer seeking our lead-free conversion process, and we discovered that those parts were already lead-free," reports Joel Deutsch, President of E-Certa, a company offering de-lidding and lead-conversion services.
Name-brand electronic-product companies' increasing reliance on distant component suppliers and contract manufacturers increases risk of counterfeit parts going into end products. In a Technology Forecasters Inc. study of risks faced when outsourcing manufacturing, the name-brand companies' operations executives and managers interviewed gave the risk of "unrevealed replacement of AVL parts with lower cost components" an average likelihood rating or 28% and the severity rating of 75%. The study's respondents gave significantly higher risk percentages when outsourcing manufacturing to companies in China.
"Using our 400 to 600 times microscope," says Deutsch, "we can view the die to see if the brand logo and part number (p/n) match. We also can check top-ink integrity, corrosion, house number part identification, and small markings for 'green' components. In some cases, part-numbers are marked only on the tiny die, and not on the exterior component package."
Early customers of de-lidding service have been manufacturers of electronic products for military and aerospace applications. Today, the service is in demand as well from commercial-product companies who prefer this sleuth approach to having a counterfeit or wrong part being discovered by customs officials, a competitor, or a customer owning to product failure.
E-certa is a bonded, turnkey operation, with cooperating technologies and facilities, combined to provide the following services:
De-lidding for component verification
Component lead conversion (pb-free to pb, and pb to pb-free)
Material content searchable database
XRF testing for compliance
Lead scan and condition
Bake and dry pack
Tape and reel
Donations to C3501 (Earth for Humanities)
For more information go to www.e-certa.com.
 Risk Reduction For OEMs Through Planning and Best Practices, Prepared for Technology Forecasters Inc. Quarterly Forum for Electronics Manufacturing Outsourcing and Supply Chain, June 2004.