Bootleg Electronics: The Good, Bad, & the Ugly
This Article was inevitable
|Bootleg Capacitors from China|
IEEE Spectrum: Invasion of the Hardware Snatchers: Cloned Electronics Pollute the Market
|Example of a Genuine vs Fake Arduino|
|And this is why I buy genuine hard drives|
|Good luck trying to debug silicon|
I like to believe that I am not paranoid when it comes to ordering components and boards, but I have learned in the last 6 years of working with electronics that there is a point where you need to realize that when you buy bootleg electronics, it is probably going to be a lot more trouble than it is worth. If you use bootleg components in your project and it fails, and you proceed to use this method in another project, you learn the same lesson over and over again. My argument is that it is not worth it, you are lucky if it is a passive component, such as a resistor, inductor, or capacitor, but when it is anything that is programmable or silicon, good lucky trying to debug the exact cause! The simple truth is that using bootleg electronics will impede or stop your learning of electronics.
Sourcing Genuine components
The unfortunate reality today is that even reputable distributors like Digi-Key, Mouser, and Arrow can fall victim to having counterfeit components leak into their supply chain. Digi-key has highlighted this issue in an article back in 2011. The key to sourcing genuine components is not only to buy them from reputable distributors, but from distributors that have counterfeit parts policies (SAE AS5553 and AS6496 compliant). Most of the reputable distributors have return policies in place that will ensure that you get the genuine component you need and may even compensate you for the inconvenience caused. Ebay, alibaba, aliexpress, banggood, Amazon, and even some hobby distributors have very minimal anti-counterfeiting policies or none at all (especially Ebay and some Chinese vendors). Although most notability Adafruit, and Sparkfun do not seem to have these policies in place, they do have a very good return policy and support that can ensure that you get a working part/component. This is the major reason why I insist on people buying from the major distributors, along with Adafruit and Sparkfun.
Examples of policies:
Arrow points out in their assurance policy that they are factory direct, which is a very effective measure at removing the risk of counterfeit parts.
Some component and parts manufacturers require you to buy their parts directly from them, Mini Circuits most notably. Microchip/Atmel gives you the option to buy their chips and components direct from them. I have personally done this, since I have found that the Atmel 328p evaluation board direct from the factory is a lot cheaper than a Genuine Arduino board and is still compatible with the standard Arduino shields.
Whether it is work or play, I would rather fork over the extra cash to buy genuine hardware and spend less time, blood, sweat, and tears trying to find intermittent problems that are due to counterfeit silicon, and that could have been easily fixed if I had spent a little more money on.
This is why #HardwareMatters to me, it is not only about top tier electronics, but most importantly GENUINE ELECTRONICS.