The semiconductor industry is like many other industries when it comes to counterfeiting. Reports of the earliest counterfeit products emerged from the early 1970s and eventually became mainstream during the Internet bubble of late 20th century. However, the implications of using counterfeit semiconductor products are significant as they can have hazardous effects on the health, security, and safety of the users. Semiconductor products or components are packaged and embedded inside electronic devices that are used in critical applications including medical and healthcare equipment, military devices, and communication and aerospace systems.
The failure or nonperformance of these counterfeit semiconductor devices can lead to operational failures of these devices, resulting in disastrous consequences. There are various reasons that have led to proliferation of counterfeit semiconductor devices in the industry, but one of the most common and avoidable reasons is inefficient tracking of the semiconductor supply chain.
One of the possible solutions to reduce the proliferation of counterfeit devices in the semiconductor industry is through increased transparency and improved traceability of the devices moving through the fragmented, and in some cases global, semiconductor supply chain. These devices are tested at each node of the supply chain, and the test data contains a lot of valuable information like wafer ID, bin number, and lot number. This data can be collected and linked to each device as part of the semiconductor test-data management practices. Once the manufacturer or distributor has this data encompassing the genealogy, it can track individual devices and figure out if any tampering or anomaly has occurred in the supply chain that has resulted in devices being counterfeited. This ability to track the genesis of each individual device can also help in tracking the vulnerable nodes that are prone to counterfeiting and driving the quality of the end products (electronic devices) down.
However, with the increasing number of semiconductor products and reliance on electronics equipment, the companies cannot afford to inspect each individual device. Doing so will result in increased cost of testing and delay in the time to market, eventually resulting in the loss of competitiveness. The customer demand for high-quality and reliable semiconductor products is increasing, and semiconductor manufacturers are pushing their supply chains to produce as many devices as they can in a short duration. This leaves the semiconductor supply chain prone to proliferation of counterfeit devices entering the supply chain.
In this race against time and competition, more and more companies are moving towards deploying yield management software for semiconductor industry to counter this problem of counterfeit semiconductor devices. These systems are capable of collecting, reading, analyzing, and presenting the test data in an intuitive format. These advanced software tools are capable of linking the data to individual devices passing through each node of the operations. Further, the automated scripts and configurations provided by the software allows the companies to perform the job in the background and on the go—thereby not letting them affect the operations. The software also allows companies to set up rules that can generate alerts in real-time if there is any mismatch in the genealogy of a device. In such a scenario, the system will alert the test and product engineers about the counterfeit device that is injected in the supply chain so they can take preventive actions without disturbing the supply chain. The infected lots will be marked red, and the products will not be shipped to the end customers, saving the companies from bad reputation and other catastrophic consequences.
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