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Marking of Components for Avoidance of Counterfeit Parts


OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate capability for guaranteeing authenticity of critical electronic components in MDA hardware. Ensure that physical marking techniques are sufficiently robust to withstand handling through supply chain intermediaries and program installation and maintenance processes. Demonstrate confidence in the marking process as a viable, affordable, reliable method of increasing confidence in the authenticity of DoD and MDA electronic components. DESCRIPTION: MDA uses thousands of different electronic components in their mission and safety critical hardware. This includes systems such as missile guidance control, attitude control, radars, communications, systems abort, and telemetry systems. These systems rely on hundreds of defense contractors to design, purchase components for, and assemble the components into the BMDS"s mission and safety critical systems. Reliable estimates indicate that more than 10% of the electronic components currently in these systems are obsolete. This means it is likely there are from 1,000 to 10,000 electronic components in MDA systems that are no longer available from the original manufacturer or an authorized supplier for the manufacturer. Virtually all other DoD agencies are facing a similar scenario. Counterfeiting is estimated to have increased from 13% to 22% annually in the past several years. A NAVAIR researcher estimated 15% of all spare and replacement integrated circuits purchased by DoD are counterfeit. In a 2.5 year span from 2007 to 2010, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized over 5.6 million counterfeit semiconductor devices. When electronic components are obsolete, they must usually be located from unauthorized suppliers. These suppliers search for parts from their own stock, contractor or government excess stock, and often from internet listing sites which list available components. Components from all locations, and in particular from internet listing sites, are at high risk for being counterfeited. Used, scrapped semiconductor electronic components are removed from circuit boards in a fashion that often subjects the parts to both thermal and electrostatic stresses beyond the manufacturer"s recommended limits. In addition, generic components of this type (e.g., memory devices, amplifiers, voltage regulators) which have many versions from multiple manufacturers, may be remarked to falsely identify the parts as having greater than actual capability (e.g., capacity, speed, power dissipation, temperature range) for the part. This risk is present for all purchases from unauthorized suppliers, regardless of the obsolescence status. However, the risk for active parts is more easily mitigated through maximum use of authorized suppliers. Most counterfeit electronic components are subjected to some level of remarking. This is done because new electronic components are generally packaged with all the parts in one shipment produced from a small number (two or less) of production batches. These batches are usually identified through a lot or date code designator on the top and/or bottom of the part which can be used to identify the approximate timeframe, and often facility, for the production of the component. Counterfeiters remark product, even if it is the correct part number, in order to make the entire shipment appear as if it was from one lot or date code. There are currently three primary ways in which counterfeit parts are remarked. All of them involve some sort of abrasive method of removing the old ink markings. The most common method is to use sandpaper to remove the markings. The resultant directional scratches are then covered up by recoating with a liquid that cures to a color and texture similar to the original part. This method is usually fairly easy to detect with visual inspection and solvent application, but the remarking quality is improving. The second method is to use sandblasting equipment to gently remove the ink markings. The third method is to use mechanical lapping techniques to polish the surface. Since recoating the surface is not required, the last two methods are currently very difficult to detect, potentially requiring the use of a scanning electron microscope in order to detect leftover sanding particles or a different surface texture. This topic solicits innovative methods of placing markings or coatings onto authentic parts at the time of manufacture, to enable customers at later stages in the supply chain to confirm that the component surfaces have not been tampered with. The four most critical requirements for this counterfeit component avoidance technique are: 1. The marking/coating must be virtually impossible for a counterfeiter to copy. 2. The marking/coating must withstand normal component handling and usage without significant deterioration. 3. The marking/coating process must not be cost-prohibitive. 4. The marking/coating verification process must not be cost or time prohibitive. One method currently being investigated is the application of organic materials, specifically deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), to component surfaces. Application of a unique mark to the component surface would provide a nearly guaranteed method of ensuring the component surfaces have not been tampered with. Components could still be refurbished and resold as new parts, but the markings, including lot and date code, would have to remain unchanged. While marking or coating components does not solve the current issue with obsolete parts, it would proactively address the counterfeiting of currently active parts which may become unavailable from authorized suppliers in the future. Development of a functional system may encourage widespread acceptance in DoD and commercial systems. Development and test must be performed with the goal of meeting the four critical requirements above. Phase I development work should focus on meeting the first two critical requirements (difficult to copy, withstand normal use). Phase II should address the third critical requirement (cost-effective), plus investigate potential applications beyond electronic components. The third Phase should address the fourth critical component (simple fast detection). PHASE I: Develop a method for placing a unique mark onto components. Ensure there are at least 10,000 different formulations available to identify different components, and potentially different manufacturing dates. Demonstrate the method for placing it onto a component in a manner that cannot be readily copied. Demonstrate the current detection methods are 100% accurate in differentiating legally coated/marked components from illegally (lower technology) coated/marked components, or uncoated/unmarked components. Demonstrate that the markings/coatings are compliant to MIL-STD-883H Test Method No. 2015 Resistance to Solvents after 1) physical handling, 2) temperature excursions from -65C to 300C for short periods (one minute), and -55C to 150C for extended periods (500 hours). Prove that modification of the surface by any of the three counterfeiting methods of remarking described above will guarantee detection as a remarked component. Acceptable detection methods at this level may include sending samples to the developer"s facility for analysis. Test plan must be submitted and approved by MDA. PHASE II: Develop production-level methods that allow cost-effective placement of the unique marking onto components. Verify production capability to support marking formulation and supplies to multiple companies (100 minimum). Estimate minimum amount of unique marking material per component to achieve 100% confidence. Generate a cost model for the implementation. At this point the contractor or MDA would solicit DoD, contractor, and component manufacturer endorsement of the effort. The Phase II cost estimates would be assessed in order to determine feasibility. PHASE III: Develop a plan to establish in-house detectability methods for electronic components that are 100% accurate in detecting remarked product. Determine implementation timeframe, and develop a cost estimate and time estimate for using equipment available for purchase to be used within the purchasing facility to determine whether components have been recoated. This in-house assessment capability must be stand-alone, but may include exchange of data with the developer in order to confirm encoded DNA information is accurate. MDA and developer present final information to DoD to develop plan forward for adoption (e.g., no adoption, adoption for only critical semiconductor components, full adoption). COMMERCIALIZATION: The developer will pursue commercialization of the various technologies and processes developed in prior Phases potential commercial uses in electronic components, and assess potential for marking mechanical parts or materials, labels, and other items determined to be at high risk for counterfeiting.
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