Scratching ICs

Discussion in 'General Electronics Chat' started by Sparky49, Aug 25, 2011.

  1. Sparky49

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Jul 16, 2011
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    417
    Hi all,

    I've noticed that whilst taking apart various pieces of technology, that manufacturers sometimes scratch or sand off the name of the IC, to prevent people stealing their designs.

    How common is this practice?

    Is it worth sanding these ICs, or can they still be identified by someone who wants to find out.:confused:

    Sparky
     
  2. TBayBoy

    Member

    May 25, 2011
    148
    19
    Wouldn't a skilled person be able to determine the chip with testing and time?
     
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  3. Sparky49

    Thread Starter Active Member

    Jul 16, 2011
    834
    417
    That's what I thought.

    Is it really worth it?
     
  4. TBayBoy

    Member

    May 25, 2011
    148
    19
    Maybe they are not scratching them to prevent stealing the design, but for some other reason.
     
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  5. tom66

    Senior Member

    May 9, 2009
    2,613
    213
    It's only done because they are paranoid.

    If you are determined, it is possible to "de-cap" a chip, and look directly at the die. The die will usually have distinguishing marks on it which will help in identifying it.

    And of course, you've always got slip ups at the factory; someone not being thorough enough at the factory could lead to something like this:

    [​IMG]

    One of the chips is not properly sanded and it gives the game away. AD9288 dual 8-bit 40/80/100 MSPS ADC. [From this image, a Rigol DS1052E: http://eevblog.com/images/DS1052E-ADC-FPGA.jpg]

    Once one person posts this picture everybody knows what part is used.
     
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  6. RiJoRI

    Well-Known Member

    Aug 15, 2007
    536
    26
    Possibly. But how much time at how much cost? The ID marks are probably removed to "keep honest people honest."

    --Rich
     
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  7. SgtWookie

    Expert

    Jul 17, 2007
    22,182
    1,728
    There are a HUGE variety of IC's being made in every package size and type. Sanding off the top of the IC makes it a bit more difficult to reverse-engineer a product.

    Anything that delays a reverse-engineering attempt gives the original designer a market share advantage; as it will take more time and cost more money for someone to perform the reverse engineering.

    The use of "house marked" parts is also quite popular. You'll note that some folks come on here looking for a particular part number that doesn't show up on any searches? It's likely a house-marked part that's also intended to make reverse-engineering the product more difficult.
     
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  8. PackratKing

    Well-Known Member

    Jul 13, 2008
    850
    215
    Won't the micro-, or not-so micro vibrations generated by that kind of grinding louse up the internal structure of the IC ?? making it more prone to failure ??
     
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  9. SgtWookie

    Expert

    Jul 17, 2007
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    Well, ICs are pretty rugged internally once they're sealed up. The thing that usually causes them to eventually fail is thermal cycling; being turned on and off. The heating/cooling cycles causes the pins and internal substrate bonding wires to be flexed. It's basically like bending the tab on a soda can back and fourth a bunch of times; eventually metal fatigue kicks in and the tab breaks off.

    The sanding of the IC would occur prior to the burn-in period. Reputable manufacturers usually operate their products for 24 hours or more prior to packaging/shipping them, as the vast majority of failures will occur during burn-in.
     
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