Beware of Counterfeit Capacitor Products

Beware of Counterfeit Capacitor Products

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How difficult is it to fake passive components? Unfortunately, not much more difficult than finding a decent printing company, a good barcode printer and someone that can spell.

A few weeks ago, Nichicon, makers of  various kinds of capacitors for electronics, electric apparatuses and power utilities warns the public that “Recently, it has been reported that counterfeit Nichicon capacitor products are turning up in the market. These counterfeit products are not produced, nor guaranteed by Nichicon. They are of inferior quality and could cause end product failure as well as possible safety hazards.”

Passive components (capacitors, resistors, transformers, inductors, etc.) are relatively simple devices and do not contain a silicon wafer. The equipment and engineering required to manufacture them does not pose a impassable barrier to entry. In fact, a quick web search will reveal literally hundreds of manufacturers.

Other than marketing, what separates those manufacturers from the Tier 1 manufacturers such as AVX, TDK, Murata, Kemet, Chemi-Con, Nichicon, and Rubycon? They make quality products using high quality materials, precise and consistent manufacturing processes,  and have passed all customer approval protocols.

Most importantly, Tier 1 products work right, every time. And it’s not a simple measure of only capacitance, resistance, and inductance. There are multiple specified parameters such as leakage, dissipation, noise, dielectric strength, impedance, and endurance which are critical in today’s applications. The Tier 2 (and lower) brands may make parts that are the same size and have some of the required performance standards, but not all.

Finding the Tier 2s is not difficult, they’re in about every electronics market in the world, making “fakes” easy to find. They are most frequently relabeled and then resold as a higher-grade part.

While it may only take a decent printing company, a good bar code printer, and someone that can spell to relabel a Tier 2 manufacturer’s product as that of a Tier 1, the label doesn’t make the part. A good bar code scanner will catch a poor attempt to counterfeit parts, but a good engineer and precision test equipment is required to tell the difference between a lower-grade part and the real McCoy.

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