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Despite the best efforts of the semiconductor industry and government agencies worldwide, semiconductor counterfeit activity continues to grow. The creation and distribution of fake semiconductor devices can destroy the reputations of original semiconductor manufacturers, distributors and/or OEMs, in addition to causing significant problems throughout the supply chain. Not to mention a potential worst‐case scenario of a counterfeit device causing equipment failure in a mission‐critical application.

Date codes and other package markings

offer traceability for distributors and customers alike. For greater traceability, some manufacturers implement a date code followed by alphanumeric characters used for lot control in the factory.

There are several problems with the

current semiconductor date code process. Counterfeiters target markets where the price of devices is high due to the requirement for high performance and the need for stringent testing operations in the manufacturing flow. Examples of this can include devices that are required to operate at extended temperature ranges such as industrial or military or higher‐speed versions of memory devices and processors. Counterfeiters obtain lower cost, lower specification versions, re‐mark them and resell at the higher price. In addition, many counterfeit operations reclaim previously used, recycled and rejected‐lot devices.

Another problem involves the lack of

industry standards concerning what a date code truly represents. A semiconductor manufacturer can assign a date code based

20 July/August 2014

on any number of manufacturing benchmarks, including date of assembly,

Power semiconductor examples from America Semiconductor

Semiconductor date codes and package markings are one line of defense against counterfeit activity and sub-standard products. Jeffrey Simon, CEO of America Semiconductor, discusses their use

There are some in the semiconductor

purchasing and engineering community who believe that the technological advances made in the industry in terms of materials, engineering, design, manufacturing processes, and storage and handling techniques mean that mechanical or physical degradation can no longer occur and thus date codes and re‐testing are no longer needed. Some have stated that product simply does not wear out, deteriorate or age on the shelf to a degree that

would adversely affect the performance

of a product. Today’s semiconductor products are not

seal, marking operation, electrical test, or the date of any other step in the manufacturing process. There is no defined methodology for date code designation. Instead, each individual manufacturer determines its own.

Because there are no standards for

when to assign an original date code, there are obviously no standards for when to re‐ test and re‐date a device’s code. Unfortunately, simply re‐dating without re‐ testing has become a more than common practice in the industry.

Years ago, a military specification was

adopted that dictated a product had to be re‐tested and re‐dated after three years. Many manufacturers have also implemented the three‐year rule for commercial procurement. However, if a device is re‐dated, it will not have to be re‐ tested per the military specification mentioned above.

going to rot on the shelf. The area of concern arrives when a product leaves the original semiconductor manufacturer’s inventory. Even when using industry recognized guidelines on packing and handling, human error exists, and products can suffer adverse effects over time under modern conditions of storage.

Sub‐standard semiconductor devices are

as significant a problem in the industry as counterfeit devices. Date code and manufacturing markings provide distributors and customers with vital information that can help them determine if a device is counterfeit, sub‐standard, needs to be re‐tested/re‐dated, or is authentic and ready for the manufacturing line. The industry would benefit from more safety measures including standardizing date code and marking processes in an effort to offer better consistency and security.

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