Electronics manufacturers struggling with unprecedented global chip shortages

Electronics manufacturers struggling with unprecedented global chip shortages, the source said, are increasingly turning to "nontraditional supply chains" to meet their needs. In doing so, they run the risk of stumbling upon counterfeit, substandard or used products.

The source cites the story of Japanese electronics manufacturer Jenesis. The company's plant in southern China, unable to purchase microcontrollers from conventional sources, placed an order on the website of the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba. However, the purchased microcontrollers turned out to be inoperative.

An expert who examined the microcontrollers found that their specifications were different from those ordered by Jenesis, although the name of the manufacturer on the packaging turned out to be genuine. By that time, the order had been fully paid, and it was not possible to contact the supplier.

And this is not an isolated case. The scarcity has spawned a criminal business, with electronics manufacturers at risk of buying components through unofficial channels. As the demand for chip authentication arose, there was a corresponding proposal. Oki Engineering, a Japanese subsidiary of Oki Electric Industry, offers chip validation services to help electronics manufacturers weed out faulty chips before they get into devices.

A constant stream of questionable components is poured into the company's offices in Tokyo, where about 20 engineers submit them to a series of tests using lasers, microscopes, X-rays and other instruments. The inspection includes examining the packages of microcircuits and crystals packed in them. The illustration shows an example of a forgery identified by Oki Engineering. The case of a genuine microcircuit, shown above, has a first pin mark, while a counterfeit product does not.

Oki Engineering began offering its services in June and had already received approximately 150 inquiries as of August. After examining about 70 cases, inspectors found problems in 30% of them.

Previously, the company also performed such checks, but these were one-time requests from individual customers. Order flow began to pick up in the fall of 2020, when the US Department of Commerce restricted the export of Huawei Technologies' chips. This prompted the Chinese giant to stockpile as many chips as possible, which hasn't been slow to affect their availability in the traditional supply chain. The attackers did not fail to take advantage of the situation.

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