In the semiconductor industry, “blacktopping” doesn’t mean paving roads or sealing cracks in an old driveway; it’s resurfacing a semiconductor component to display new information such as date codes. Unfortunately, blacktopping is getting a bad rap because counterfeiters use this practice as a way to disguise devices as “real” when, in fact, they are the product of board pulls or illegitimate devices.
When the word “blacktopping” is thrown around in the chip world, it is automatically discarded into the pile of bad words never to be used again. Customers within the semiconductor industry automatically associate the word with counterfeiting. Why? For decades counterfeiters have blacktopped non-functioning and illicit chips and sold them into the supply chain. In this case, yes, “blacktopping” deserves any and all negative undertones.
But what a lot of people do not know is that a counterfeiter’s process varies significantly than that of an original component manufacturer (OCM), who uses blacktopping methods as a way to update device information for customer use. OCMs use blacktopping to cover up old information so that there is no confusion about when the device was manufactured tested and where it all took place.
So how can buyers tell good blacktopping from bad? That’s easy. Buyers should procure components strictly from authorized sources and avoid the gray market supply chain. Resources are readily available: the Authorized Directory, for example, was established specifically to help customers locate OCM-authorized suppliers in any given region. By using resources such as the Authorized Directory, counterfeits are easily avoided, and issues such as blacktopped devices will no longer raise a red flag.
George Karalias, is director of marketing & communications at Rochester Electronics.