It is well documented by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Department of Defense (DoD), and other industry and government agencies, that procuring semiconductor devices from an unauthorized source comes with many risks. Unauthorized distributors and brokers—companies that are not authorized or franchised to represent a particular component manufacturer—simply cannot fully guarantee the authenticity or quality of power semiconductors or any other semiconductor device for that matter.
Despite the efforts of the original semiconductor manufacturers and government agencies worldwide, the counterfeiting of semiconductors including power semiconductors, is still a growing problem. Counterfeiters have become more sophisticated, and as a result, companies are receiving devices with fake/re-marked part numbers and company logos, empty devices with no die, falsified RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compliance paperwork, and replicate semiconductors that pass visual inspection standards.
Perhaps even more dangerous than counterfeit devices are substandard devices. These parts are authentic, traceable, pass visual inspection standards, and many times pass performance tests. However, once designed into a system, they are not reliable and can fail after a period of time. The damaged, substandard devices can be caused by poor manufacturing techniques, lack of manufacturing oversight, unfavorable storage conditions, or improper handling.
One way for companies to address the continuing problem of counterfeit and substandard power semiconductors in the supply chain is by following the semiconductor distribution and purchasing practices that define the Constant Initiative, a program initiated and supported by America Semiconductor. Constant Initiative practices create a controllable supply chain that is inherently safe and reliable. Original power semiconductor manufacturers (OSMs) such as America Semiconductor, which adhere to the Constant Initiative, only sell through authorized distributors, and similarly, OEMs only buy these devices through authorized distributors.
In addition, the Constant Initiative principles ensure high-quality products through proven manufacturing processes and quality assurance procedures via dedicated factories and facilities when manufacturing abroad. The Constant Initiative does not permit buy/resell practices, significantly reducing the likelihood of shipping counterfeit and substandard devices.
From rectifiers and diacs (diode for alternating current) to IGBT modules, triacs (triode for alternating current) and diodes, power semiconductor package types have been around for many years and are easily targeted by counterfeiters.
Although manufacturing power semiconductors overseas helps solve product cost issues, these can also come at the risk of sacrificing device quality. Manufacturing semiconductors requires a skilled labor force to operate the equipment and navigate the complex, multiple-step process. The entire manufacturing process, from start to packaged devices ready for shipment, takes approximately five weeks, with many variables—machinery quality, clean-room quality, labor quality, raw material quality—that all affect the final product’s quality and performance. When manufacturing abroad, appropriate quality control and proper storage, handling, and shipping procedures can be easily taken for granted, overlooked, or neglected. Effective quality management is best facilitated with regulators on-site so that they can make informed decisions, increasing a manufacturer’s ability to deal with potential problems or risks, and maintain production schedules.
The practices defined within the Constant Initiative provide supply chain stability. A reputable dedicated fab, combined with proven manufacturing processes and quality assurance procedures monitored by on-site regulators, delivers high-quality products without risk of counterfeits or substandard devices.
With power semiconductors being used in more products, in an increasing number of applications across a broad base of markets than ever before, counterfeit and sub-standard devices can easily enter the supply chain without safeguards in place. With semiconductor manufacturers and OEM procurement departments both practicing the Constant Initiative, we can finally begin to take steps towards constantly purchasing quality.
Jeffrey Simon is CEO of America Semiconductor, based in Linden, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].