|One of the most difficult component categories to verify authenticity are passive discrete devices. These types of devices, which include capacitors, resistors, inductors, and transformers, do not contain a die. Most testing protocols include X-ray and decapsulation to verify die markings traceable to the manufacturer and even part number and the size and orientation of the die. But these devices don’t have a die. With no die, what do you do?Parametric performance is not protected by intellectual property rights – people generally don’t “make” fake capacitors. What is most commonly done is a cross (product with similar mechanical and electrical properties) from a lower cost manufacturer is substituted for the requested device, and the labeling is changed. And provided the capacitance is within the specified range, most of these devices would pass a basic test profile. The reliability of these parts, however, are not proven and are more likely to fail, let along that they are counterfeit as soon as they are re-labeled.External Visual Inspection (EVI) can reveal little provided the dimensions (which are standard) are within manufacturer specifications. Electrical testing has a higher probability of identifying substandard parts, particularly if the testing is not limited to a single parameter at ambient temperature. That tells you if the part meets specifications, not that it is authentic.So how to verify authenticity? Through extensive independent experimentation and analysis, White Horse Laboratories is developing new test and inspection protocols for passive devices to answer just that question. This paper presents a solution specific for Multilayer Chip Capacitors (MLCC).Different manufacturers have different process controls, and generally the Tier 1 manufacturers of the tightest material and process controls (which are protected intellectual property, and closely guarded proprietary technology), which helps to differentiate the performance, consistency and reliability of their products. WHL has developed a profile to not only measure a devices’ performance to the specification, but the consistency of the manufacturing and how that equates to the stability of the device. This profile goes far beyond EVI and testing basic capacitance and into how the device is constructed. The capacitance is what makes it a capacitor, the manufacturing is what makes a specific MLCC unique.
What is a Capacitor?
A capacitor is an electrical device that stores energy in the electrical field between a pair of closely spaced plates (electrodes). Capacitors store energy, filter signals, and differentiate between high and low frequency signals. An MLCC is a Multilayer Ceramic Chip Capacitor, with many layered electrode pairings. Other types of capacitors include electrolytic and tantalum, which will be covered under separate unique test profiles. This profile is specific to MLCC.
The illustration above shows the construction of a typical MLCC. Note the layering of electrode plates (seen in a cross section of two different devices in the above right images), the dielectric material which makes up the majority of the package body, the vertical space between the electrodes is the dielectric thickness, the horizontal area where the electrodes overlap is the active area, and the base termination with plating for solderability.
MLCC Typical Parameters
White Horse Labs’ MLCC Profile
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* Refers to manufacturer-specified parameters for each part number.
** Golden sample (known good and authentic device) may be required for dielectric material, dielectric thickness, active area, and number of electrodes. Please consult your Account Manager or Customer Service agent for details.
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