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VR Industries Blog

Counterfeit Components: How PCB Assembly Keeps Companies and Consumers Safe

by VR Industries

Want to buy a "designer" handbag for $20? How about a fresh pair of "name-brand" sneakers for $10? Interested in a DVD of the latest summer blockbuster before it's even out of the theaters?

Counterfeiting is a worldwide epidemic affecting markets from consumer goods to military electronics, and the printed circuit board manufacturing and assembly industries are right at the heart of it all. Electronics vendors hoping to win customers with top-quality products can no longer turn a blind eye to counterfeiting in their supply chains, which includes PCBs and their components.

What is the current status of electronics and PCB component counterfeiting today, why does it matter and how can you and your business avoid falling victim?

"Counterfeit goods represent 2.5% of all global trade."

How bad is counterfeiting?
According to a 2016 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the European Union Intellectual Property Office, international counterfeiting has increased over the last decade, earning criminals and their syndicates around the world $451 billion annually. The sale of counterfeit goods represents about 2.5 percent of all global trade.

Can counterfeiting inflict serious damage?
How harmful could something as small as a single counterfeit semiconductor be? Don't electronics contain thousands of these components? After all, Moore's Law postulates that the number of transistors per square inch of circuitry doubles every year. What's one bad egg among so many?

Just ask the Semiconductor Industry Association - according to the organization's research, a single counterfeit semiconductor could cause deadly electrical shocks, fires and completely upend the functionality of the equipment they're embedded in, like microcontrollers used in high-speed train braking systems, microprocessors in intravenous drip machines and radiation detectors for first responders. Each of these examples represents a real incident of PCB counterfeiting, most thankfully preempted by quality assurance teams - a miracle considering counterfeit semiconductors pick the pockets of legitimate manufacturers to the tune of as much as $75 billion per year, according to IndustryWeek.

"A single counterfeit semiconductor could cause deadly electrical shocks."

However, regardless of whether businesses identify counterfeiting early in their supply chains or allow it to occur through ignorance, they are still liable for the outcome.

How can your company stay safe?
Because PCB assembly professionals work directly with discrete components, they could be an electronic provider's first line of defense against the integration of counterfeit materials into goods. A survey of PCB assembly companies working with the U.S. government conducted by the Department of Commerce found about one-third of PCBA businesses have encountered components confirmed as counterfeit or perceived to be counterfeit according to their expertise.

If counterfeiting is that pervasive in a market with such strict, regimented oversight, imagine how commonplace fakes could be for your everyday electronics consumer? Or, for the average electronics business owner?

When electronics makers partner with reliable PCBA companies, they're trusting in professionals with high-level expertise and industry knowledge to snoop out fakes before it's too late. If you suspect counterfeiting in your supply chain or simply lack the checks and balances necessary to separate the real from the fake, contact a representative from VR Industries and let PCBA be your watchdog for counterfeit components.

Topics: News, Printed Circuit Board Assembly

Written by VR Industries