Standard AS6171/3 - XRF for Detection of Counterfeit Components
In recent years, the electronics industry has seen a steady increase of counterfeit components entering the supply chain. Some of these components have been discovered in medical systems, military electronics, and aerospace applications - compromised performance in these applications can, in a worst case scenario, result in loss of human life.
In order to combat counterfeit components, organizations look to a variety of different counterfeit component detection test methods. The Society of Aerospace Engineers (SAE) has developed the standard AS6171 to standardize various test and inspection procedures, workmanship, and minimum requirements to detect counterfeit electrical, electronic, and electromechanical (EEE) parts. X-Ray Fluorescence (ED-XRF) is one analytical technique that can be used in authentication of components and is the focus of section AS6171/3 in the SAE standard.
According to the SAE website, "...the detection technique (x-ray fluorescence) is meant for use on piece parts prior to assembly on a circuit board or on the parts that are removed from a circuit board. The applicability spans a large swath of active, passive, and electromechanical parts".
XRF analysis is featured based on the concept that counterfeit electronic components will have some level of material difference when compared to authentic, or genuine, components. An example would be yttrium levels in dielectric ceramic materials but a variance in any number of elements may be an indicator. X-ray fluorescence provides users with a nondestructive method of analyzing external surfaces as well as internal elements of a part (internal analysis requires a component be disassembled or a high end XRF spectrometer) to identify these material differences.
As previously noted, the complete AS6171 standard provides multiple analytical techniques to identify counterfeit components. In addition to the benefit of being a non-destructive test method that requires minimal training, various x-ray fluorescence spectrometers can be used to meet additional testing needs depending on a facilities quality control requirements - among other electronics related uses, XRF can be used for general RoHS testing, compositional analysis (solder, etc), and coating thickness measurements (ENIG, ENEPIG, etc).
The Hitachi High-Technologies line of x-ray fluorescence offers several models of elemental analyzers that can be considered for review of electronic components and adherence to the AS6171/3 standard. The premier system for elemental analysis is the Hitachi EA6000VX because of its combination of high performance and high throughput features like its high speed mapping functions.