How to Ensure PCBA Components are Authentic

Nowadays, electronic traders and agents are varied and numerous in the market. Everyone claims that their components are original and authentic. The fact is that some of suppliers often use shoddy and fake parts for their own short-term gain. So how can we identify fake, second-hand and copied materials?

Find an authorized agent

Today, quality and price from different agents come in various levels.

We can check if an agent is an authorized distributor or not through the enterprises’ official website. We should always aim to purchase the products through formal channels.

Normally, a qualified agent controls the source of its stock. They can ensure that the batch is genuine and from the original manufacturer. Seeed purchases all of their materials from official channels like Digikey and Mouser directly.

Look at the company’s reputation

Generally, a distributor with a good reputation can guarantee their products since it takes time to establish their reputation and credibility. In order to maintain brand image, they will avoid using counterfeit components. Seeed also values its brand image and will only purchase parts from suppliers with an equally good reputation.

Control and inspect incoming materials

The most important step is to strictly control the incoming materials and perform inspections. Seeed will inspect every batch of materials to ensure the components are qualified for assembly.

ICs are key components in printed circuit boards. But how can we identify if it is new or used?

1. Inspect the surface of the component body

If a used part has been polished to make it look new, there may be tiny scratch patterns on the surface when observed under a magnifier. If it is covered up with paint on the surface, it will look bright and have no plastic texture.

2. Inspect the printed text

High-quality producers use laser printers to print the text silk-screen. It has a clear appearance, is non-conspicuous, and is difficult to erase. Typically, the text on refurbished chips is printed fuzzy and is not as sharp. You may find that the edges of the characters are blurred. The characters may be offset and the shades and colors may not be uniform. Moreover, many re-furbished chips use stencils for re-printing. In this case, if you feel the printed text, it should be easy to tell if it is new or refurbished.

3. Inspect component pins

If the component pins are shiny with a thin coating, then it may be refurbished. Original components are tin plated, their color is dark, uniform and will not oxidize when scratched.

4. Check the date code

The production code should be specific to a particular batch and should include the production time. If it is used, the new date label may be unclear or inconsistent with the timeline.

5. Compare the thickness of the component body

Used parts are polished deeply to rid of old markings and make them appear new.

Therefore, the thickness will be significantly less than normal. If you compare them using calipers, it can be hard to distinguish if you lack experience. But if you look at the device at the front and inspect the shape, it may be more obvious. Since plastic housed devices are injection molded, the device edges will be rounded. But excessive grinding will reduce the plastic body to a rectangular shape with sharp edges, so these components must be refurbished.


Having provided Chinese manufacturing services to international customers for over 10 years, Seeed Studios is an old hand when it comes to incoming parts quality inspections. Although fake parts are becoming less and less common, inspections are still of utmost importance to avoid the fake parts in circulation. Seeed also works with long-term partners with mutual trust and understanding solidified over the years since Seeed’s inception.

Try Seeed Fusion’s assembly services and leave components procurement and quality control to the experts. Seeed can procure parts from trusted distributors such as DigiKey or Mouser, and can also source parts locally. Located in the Silicon Valley of Hardware in Shenzhen, Seeed has its own stock of parts that are bought in bulk and conveniently stored in Seeed’s warehouse. These parts are cheaper and immediately available, cutting the PCBA lead-time to as little as 7 working days. Learn more here.

November 2018

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