Enabling Vision, Detection of Counterfeit Semiconductors

The latest laser for the semiconductor market is the RETINA™ laser micromachining system. This series has been developed to carefully reveal known “tells” within suspected counterfeit ICs, as well as to quickly and fully decapsulate semiconductors to reveal the die markings using our patented technology. RETINA™ enables vision by revealing clues about a suspected counterfeit part without destroying the evidence, all without harmful chemicals, and within seconds. The RETINA™ system satisfies SAE tests AS6171/2 and AS6171/4.

Reveal Sanding and Abrasive Marks on Counterfeit Semiconductors

Using a specialized laser recipe that selectively removes the top layer of lower-density epoxy (AKA “blacktop”) covering the actual component top, we are able to reveal abrasive markings. Sanding marks are typically just below the top surface of a counterfeit “black-topped” device and are noted through visual inspection under a microscope by flat circular shapes as opposed to the crowning light usually seen on an intact sphere of filler material.

Reveal “Ghost Marks” on the top of Counterfeit Semiconductors

The process of counterfeiting a semiconductor is one that lacks the convenience of time, which means that semiconductor counterfeiters need to be very fast. The quickness of how they sand down the top of a semiconductor, unfortunately, usually leads to non-uniform removal of the original stamp or laser mark. A semiconductor that is laser marked is more difficult to counterfeit because the laser penetrates deep into the mold compound thus creating a lasting image that we can easily uncover. Ink Stamping is easiest to counterfeit because it only takes a few seconds of sanding to get the original mark off. However, even as ink stamps are easiest to remove, not much care is taken to remove the original stamp since it is understood that it will be “black-topped” afterward. Removing the blacktop without damaging the mark underneath is key to this process and RETINA™ excels at revealing these ghost marks without washing away the evidence. Our many years of experience in both laser technology and semiconductor decapping allows us to understand how to create a recipe to find these marks.

Counterfeit Detection of Die Marks in Seconds

Many bulk re-sellers of electronic components will want to get to the die as fast as possible to confirm that the lot of chips is authentic, or not. The RETINA™ system has such high dynamic range that it can both remove microns, or millimeters, of material at a time. The proprietary laser technology gives us full control over the laser pulse, which means that we can craft very accurate recipes that are highly selective in what they react with. This high selectivity means that the mold compound is removed while keeping the underlying structures intact.

Compare to the Heated Solvent Test by SMT Corporation

Unlike the Heated Solvent Test (HST Reference), which brings organic solvents (Dynasolve 711 or Dynasolve 750) beyond its dangerous flash point (41°C, MSDS ) to 105°C, the RETINA™ system is a fully enclosed Class 1 laser workstation that sits on a desk or bench. This enclosure and the laser-safe large viewing window keep the laser light in and the operator safe. There are zero chemicals to work with; the laser does all of the work without the hazards of dangerous solvents. What’s more is that the RETINA™ system works in seconds, which drastically increases the throughput of parts to be tested when compared to the Heated Solvent Test, which takes 45-minutes.

Contact us today and ask us about how the RETINA™ system can help you determine a counterfeit semiconductor from an authentic one. See more at our RETINA™ product page.

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