MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--Obsolescence, market shortages and price hikes are the key motivational factors for counterfeiters to target a part and make a quick buck, according to data compiled by electronic components database firm SiliconExpert Technologies.
Obsolete parts create a secondary market of brokers and independent distributors who are more than happy to source from any outlet they can, said Vineet Chaudhary product marketing manager at SiliconExpert, listing a host of other factors the firm believed created opportunities for counterfeiters to circumvent existing supply chain standards.
Tragic events like last year’s Japanese earthquake, or the more recent Thai floods often create opportunity for unscrupulous counterfeiters, looking to get rich quick as legitimate part prices soar.
Indeed, in order to cash in on price hikes and market shortages, counterfeiters are seemingly willing to endanger lives, with shoddy parts ending up in anything from vital medical equipment to mission critical military gear
, across the globe.
This kind of negligent behavior may not be purposefully malicious, but the dire consequences put counterfeiters in the same category as malicious individuals who would otherwise be imprisoned for endangering human lives.
The horror stories
are numerous; from soldiers experiencing weapons failure in the field, to medical equipment malfunction and aircraft failure. All in the name of easy profit.
Some products are easier to fake than others, said Chaudhary, noting that MosFETs, flash memory, FPGAs and microcontrollers were all often reproduced by counterfeiters, sometimes with alarming degrees of accuracy.
Meanwhile, certain manufacturers are known to be more prone to product forgeries, increasing their risk level in a bill of materials (BOM) assessment.
While the risks from counterfeiting are significant, however, it’s simply unfeasible for OEMs / EMSs to test every single part prior to manufacturing. Indeed, most of the current ways of attempting to mitigate counterfeit issues in the electronics industry are reactionary, rather than proactive.
The proactive stance is where SiliconExpert feels it can add value, with the recent launch of the firm’s counterfeit risk analysis algorithm, which aims to predict the likelihood of a part being targeted by counterfeiters. Much of the algorithm is based on historical data points from previously flagged faked components and can be used across several million parts.
The algorithm includes anything from whether a manufacturer has been badly affected by counterfeits in the past, to reported instances of fakes, ease of replication, and percentage of risk based on market conditions and price hikes. All of this combines to offer manufacturers a percentage of likelihood about how vulnerable their BOM or supply chain might be.