Although government agencies endeavor to eliminate counterfeiting, such parts continue to change hands, often at a high cost to the buyer. Counterfeit components are inexpensive to produce relative to their authentic counterparts. Because they are low-cost, such parts are typically made of low-quality or worn components. Authentic parts are far more reliable, lengthening the lifespan of the component, the parts it comes into contact with (e.g. a fire will impact more than one part of a device), and the overall functionality of whichever device is using it. Spotting and avoiding counterfeit parts is an important aspect of maintaining best practices. Below are some techniques to ensure authentic, non-counterfeit PCB Assembly parts.
Choose a Trustworthy Source
Independent distributors often offer products at a lower cost than the manufacturer. This, unsurprisingly, may not always be the best bargain. Buying components from an authorized distributor is the best idea since counterfeit components are a risk to device reliability and physical safety. Each year, counterfeit parts are responsible for an estimated $250 billion in damages globally. Parts manufacturers typically provide guarantees and/or warranties, an insurance seldom offered by independent parties. As an alternative to buying directly from the manufacturer, “authorized” distributors may be suitable. In finding a distributor, it is important to research the seller’s reputation, which may include customer reviews paired with how long the company has been in business.
Inspect Product Packaging
Inconsistencies may be evident on the shipping box itself. Look for discrepancies in fonts between the new shipment as opposed to what is standard for the official component manufacturer (OCM). Counterfeit products may list an unreasonable manufacture date (too far in the past, or, occasionally, in the future). Misspellings and incorrect information may indicate the product differs from what was expected. If the interior packaging does not contain the usual elements (dry packs, foam, etc.) this may be an indicator of counterfeit parts. Inspect the logo for variations such as blurring or discoloration.
Keep an eye on the BESTProto blog for part two of this article, featuring three more important techniques to avoid counterfeit PCB Assembly components.