Customer Roulette: Counterfeit and Substandard Components

My grandfather used to tell me that even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn.  Likewise even a dangerous broker that sells counterfeit components will typically sells legitimate products.  If not, they’d be out of business with a quickness.

We recently spoke with a buyer at a GE location who told us he had been using a particular broker for quite some time.  He told us the name of the broker and we know them well.  In my opinion the GE buyer is playing a highly risky game of roulette with GE’s customer.  Some of the time those components will be fine. However do you really want them going in an MRI unit or a nuclear facility or the control for a locomotive?

Keep in mind that counterfeiters are becoming very skilled.  For every picture you see of someone using a wok to remove components, there’s a sophisticated facility using an oven to melt solder and carefully pulling the ICs with an IC removal tool.  The leads are then cleaned and often retinned.  If the date codes are too old or you need RoHS compliance, they just recoat the top and then use the same engraving machine the component manufacturer used to label the parts.

Technically these are called substandard components, not counterfeits. Unless there is a RoHS issue, they are very hard to detect.  If you’re still using Acetone to check components you are at least one generation behind the counterfeiters, yet we run into brokers every day who tell us they are checking components that way.

EDX components are tested by an independent test house.  Among other things they use a Heated Chemical Test (HCT) to check the labeling.  The composition of the chemicals is changed as the counterfeiters alter their process.


If you pop these substandard components on a board to test, they will often function fully.  The problem is having been in use they likely have been hit by dozens if not hundreds of power spikes during their lifetime.  Each one of these hits diminishes the life expectancy of a component. Thus these components may quickly fail or even worse deviate from their intended specifications.   All may appear fine to the end product user, but what are the ramifications of using an out of spec device.  Are actual lives being put at risk? Are you playing roulette with your customer’s well-being?

GE employees are encouraged to sign up for a free registration with, powered by EDX technology. All components housed in our state-of-the-art warehouse facility go through a vigorous and specific testing process to verify full authenticity of materials.

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