MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Counterfeit parts are increasingly finding their way into mission critical military and healthcare equipment, with the number of fake electronic parts soaring dramatically over the past couple of years, according to market research organization IHS iSuppli.
IHS reported a fourfold increase in counterfeit-part incidents worldwide from just 324 in 2009 to 1,363 in 2011, after a thorough investigation of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), contract manufacturers, component suppliers, buyers and other supply chain participants.
The firm said this marked the first time the number of reported incidents in a single year had exceeded 1,000 and warned that the actual total could encompass millions of purchased parts.
The most disturbing aspect of the uptick in counterfeiting, however, is the increased frequency in which fake parts are surfacing in the military and aerospace industry, posing a serious threat to both human life and national security, not to mention the financial implications of fixing the errors once they’re discovered.
“We have men and women out there, serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, using potentially dangerous equipment made with counterfeit parts,” one engineer noted in a recent focus group EE Times attended.
“The counterfeit issue is serious, it’s growing and it’s a major problem for electronics makers—especially military and aerospace companies,” said Rory King, director, supply chain product marketing at IHS.
The problem, said King, was becoming increasingly hard to ignore, with many companies blind to the risks owing to lack of awareness for the issue and the difficulty in detecting fake parts.
“The reporting done by the industry can help other organizations pinpoint risky parts or suppliers,” said King, noting that the U.S. government was just starting to implement stricter regulations to stem the proliferation of fake components, making defense suppliers accountable for counterfeit issues.
The act means contractors are now responsible for detecting and avoiding the use of counterfeit or suspected counterfeit electronic parts, while making them face the financial burden of fixing any problems caused if fake parts are found. It also demands the implementation of qualification procedures and processes to weed out fakes by using only trusted and authorized suppliers and testing equipment with tools able to analyze and assess parts.
According to IHS, a typical bill of materials for a military/defense program can have anywhere from a few hundred to over tens of thousands of purchased parts, of which between 0.5 to 5 percent typically match incidents of counterfeit. The same is true for medical equipment, said IHS.
Who are supplying these counterfeit or forged parts? The authorized distributors? Also, is it not the rigorous qualification/audit process followed by the defense organizations, which should catch these poor quality part before these slips into the vital defense equipments? Who should be blamed? :)
99% are most likely from China..just last year thankfully the Military discovered IC Chips with hidden back-doors which could be deactivated via a particular signal. And who supply these IC's our friends in China, "ALL" IC's or any other electronic part used in our defense, power or any other sensitive section should use only Made in U.S.A. parts verified and inspected. Case closed.
It is highly likely some of these parts are not easily detectable by nondestructive means. They can produced by foreign equivalents of the CIA, very masterfully done. Most semiconductors are no longer made in the USA, so this not an answer. Long ago some brilliant politician had the COTS idea so their military contractor friends could make more money. If for example you only put in 10 special chips per 100, the odds of being caught are low but the effect can be very high. Another reason to bring more manufacturing back to the USA that will be ignored.
This is not the first time substandard parts have been faked for demanding applications. A few years ago there was a scandal where "ordinary" bolts were falsely labeled as Grade 5 or 8. If I remember correctly, they came from overseas manufacturers. I therefore must agree with Rod that it is worth the extra cost to buy parts of a known brand from an established manufacturer, even if the project is not safety critical. This is not nationalism but just good practice. Turn out just one lot of junk and at the very least your reputation is wrecked.
This problem of counterfeit components winding up in equipment purchased under military contracts is coincident with the establishment of the first American offshore manufacturing facilities.
Consider today the advancement of computer hardware where the logical architecture is built on compiler generated chips such as FPGAs and ASICs and many other megadensity silicone devices. Numerous strategies have beeen devised to facilitate in-system testing such as BIST (built-in-self-test) and Boundary Scan.These QA techniques worked reasonably well when the advanced chips were being manufactured here in the U.S. due to the ease of arranging engineering conferences between companies to resolve particularly nasty internal or interactive hardware bugs in a given system. However when these devices were sent out to be manufactured offshore such information sharing became non-existent. In most instances QC procedures are completely unknown in Chinese manufacturing facilities.
Finally, virtually all of the advanced test methods for these megadensity devices are not capable of detecting modifications to the device's computerized model that could be in the form of Trojan horse robotic procedures. Gaining access to any such "pirate" substrate most likely would not be possible through the normal addressing facility of the device, as some obscure access scheme might be used to access the respective functions. Currently the semiconductor parts situation is in a mess. IMHO the only solution is for the Pentagon to review the entire semiconductor parts problem vis-a-vis ALL systems and establish an entirely new set of guidelines for American manufactures/vendors of military systems. Obviously the first rule that needs to be codified for the purchase of new systems is that all manufacturing MUST be done within the states of the United States of America.
if we are stupid enough to wage war with china, we will very rapidly discover that we are totally unable to make many of the parts. How many years to bring a semi fab and package facility on line.
Even "simple" stuff like connectors, capacitors, resistors, how long before we have enough.
We have lost before we start.
Although that used to be the case, that is no longer possible. We used to have the facilities to manufacture "security critical" chips at some government-owned facilities, but those have fallen due to budgetary issues. And it would not be possible to currently manufacture ALL "mission critical" IC's in the States, the resources just are not there anymore.
That's probably true for many components within the supply chain of many military products. As the world becomes more interconnected, the superpowers will no longer be those that have the bombs and missiles, etc. It will be those that "manufacture" the products of peace and war.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.