As industry members, industry associations and government agencies work together to develop processes that will increase the identification and seizure of counterfeits, counterfeiters attempt to gear up their technology to stay one step ahead of the law. Components are pulled from e-waste disposal sites throughout Asia, and are then cleaned up and repackaged. Similar to money laundering, the components are sold through a network of companies and through the Internet, so the end buyer has no idea of the origin of the product.
The best rule to follow in order to avoid the acquisition of counterfeit semiconductors is always buy from the original manufacturer or their authorized distributor. But what happens when devices are no longer available from the original manufacturer or its authorized distributors due to end-of-life announcements?
One solution is to work with authorized continuing semiconductor manufacturers that can re-create the device and provide continuing manufacturing services. Recently, a reputable aerospace and electronics manufacturer experienced a critical semiconductor obsolescence scenario. The company needed to outfit 160 military aircraft with a critical semiconductor device — an application-specific integrated circuit in a current loop scheme that decodes internal aircraft safety operations.
Critical to the performance of the aircraft, the semiconductor devices are no longer made by the original semiconductor manufacturer. Without the ability to procure the semiconductor devices through authorized channels, the aerospace and electronics manufacturer was left with few options; either risk buying counterfeit or substandard components through unauthorized sources, redesign the system, or engage with an authorized continuing manufacturer.
After carefully considering the options and the potential impact on its reputation, engineering resources and costs, procurement costs and time-to-market, the aerospace and electronics manufacturer chose to partner with an authorized continuing manufacturer to solve its obsolescence issue.
Utilizing an expansive inventory of wafer-and-die, the continuing semiconductor manufacturer re-created the critical devices, matching the performance characteristics and specifications of the original devices. The continuing manufacturer was able to re-create the semiconductor devices based on a source control drawing; documents, graphs and electronic data from the original manufacturer; and two original device samples.
Without the ability of continuing semiconductor manufacturers to re-engineer critical components, companies would be forced to redesign entire systems or risk purchasing counterfeit/substandard devices. A redesign of an integrated circuit system can potentially cost millions, in addition to a lengthy re-qualification and re-testing process, which would mean innumerable lost hours of development time that could be better spent on creating new products. Continuing semiconductor manufacturers offer a convenient and reliable option, which spares companies from the aforementioned issues intrinsic to pursuing gray market or counterfeit product options. A re-engineered semiconductor is ultimately a fraction of the cost of a re-design, and given the government regulations in place to ensure continuing semiconductor manufacturer integrity, the obvious choice to re-engineer is the only true solution.
About the author:
George Karalias is director of marketing & communications at Rochester Electronics.