Technology
Counterfeit capacitors?

Make Pt0153
A Make reader sent this in — are these counterfeit capacitors?

100 thoughts on “Counterfeit capacitors?

  1. I had one of those… I wasted 2 days trying to find why my design didn’t want to work…

    After the second day I got a hammer (Because I knew the capacitors weren’t doing there job correctly)and hammer them down to reveal that they weren’t authentic!!!

  2. wow that’s amazing … even with ‘dirt cheap labor’, you’d think the cost of assembling one of those would be greater than just making the real deal.

  3. In high school electronics class we all had to make a DC power supply as our first project, which would then be used to power everything else we built during the year. We delighted in wrapping a wire in kraft paper, coating it with clear nail polish, and meticulously painting colored stripes on it.

    We would then hand that to the victim when they needed a 47k resistor, which was what ran across the 110v terminals on the input side of the transformers. It would generally result in a loud pop and their project board jumping a few inches off of the workbench. Occasionally we got lucky and somone would fall off their stool.

    Good times.

  4. The two capacitors in the photo do not match. The one on the right looks like the bottom had been inserted in to some sleeve (note the sliver stripe) and the one on the left has the base folded over.

    I’m not saying these aren’t fake, but I’d like to know more about where this photo came from.

  5. The two capacitors in the photo do not match. The one on the right looks like the bottom had been inserted in to some sleeve (note the sliver stripe) and the one on the left has the base folded over.

    I’m not saying these aren’t fake, but I’d like to know more about where this photo came from.

  6. The two capacitors in the photo do not match. The one on the right looks like the bottom had been inserted in to some sleeve (note the sliver stripe) and the one on the left has the base folded over.

    I’m not saying these aren’t fake, but I’d like to know more about where this photo came from.

  7. The two capacitors in the photo do not match. The one on the right looks like the bottom had been inserted in to some sleeve (note the sliver stripe) and the one on the left has the base folded over.

    I’m not saying these aren’t fake, but I’d like to know more about where this photo came from.

  8. The shapes of the upper edges do not match. Also, the one on the right should have an indent going round the bottom edge.

    But then again, the one on the left might just as well be a real thing put there for conparison.

  9. Looks like they match. The bottom of that blue capacitor looks a little suspect, though.. wonder if there’s a smaller capacitor in there :-)

    It’s interesting that they substituted a lower capacitance and a lower voltage… so, when the small cap pops or leaks, everything will be safe because it’s in the protective fake can.

    What kind of profit is there in this? Very roughly speaking (retail prices), the big cap sells for $1.65, and the little one sells for $0.56, so a $1.09 each minus materials and labor cost.

  10. In repairing vintage radio gear, it’s not uncommon to put a new (smaller) cap inside an old can. That way the radio keeps its vintage look.

    It doesn’t explain the different uF values, of course. Pretty silly to make a fake capacitor, since they are pretty to begin with. A CPU I can understand, but a cap or a resistor? Come on. :-)

  11. In repairing vintage radio gear, it’s not uncommon to put a new (smaller) cap inside an old can. That way the radio keeps its vintage look.

    It doesn’t explain the different uF values, of course. Pretty silly to make a fake capacitor, since they are pretty to begin with. A CPU I can understand, but a cap or a resistor? Come on. :-)

  12. Electrolytic caps are easy to test with a DMM. Simply set your meter to OHMS, put the leads across the cap, and if it’s a true electrolytic the resistance will gradually increase as the capacitor charges. Once you reach infinite resistance, switch the meter to DC volts and see if it is holding a charge.

  13. I’ve seen kits and small run products where where the back of the chips was disfigured so that you couldn’t just order bunches more (and a mess of other parts and get some custom boards made) and reproduce the item in question yourself without an additional minute or two of analysis of the circuit and a quick trip to Google.

    Could this be what happens when that line of reasoning goes off its Zoloft (or whatever they give paranoids)?

  14. Once I took apart an old printer server and i pulled out what i thought to be an EEPROM, but when i removed the lable i saw it was a PIC16C55.

  15. Counterfeit parts are becoming more common everyday. I experienced some ICs that were hex buffers that were relabeled as an analog to digital converter. Obviously they ended up not working. Also, since they were on boards meant for the Navy, the FBI got involved.

  16. The counterfeit electronics business is getting serious – it is pointless to search for low priced power transistors for example, cheap ones are remarked and show lower power dies inside on dissection (diode bridges are similar). The obvious failure with not working part (ADC as relatively expencive part is common) is actually better – you get result right now, not after you have made 30 prototypes that fail randomly and mysteriously.

  17. I’d like to see what’s inside the smaller cap on the right, another cap that is even smaller, and then inside it, yet another???

    Sort-of a Russian Dolls type gift for geeks…

  18. I’d really like to know what the shape of the two contacts on the bottom are, and what the space between them is. That might make some sense of it, as it would be another capacitor in parallel with the first.

  19. I’m with Ron above: QUOTE
    “In repairing vintage radio gear, it’s not uncommon to put a new (smaller) cap inside an old can. That way the radio keeps its vintage look. It doesn’t explain the different uF values, of course…”

    I have two rebuilt vintage radios where logic chips are put in place of vacuum tubes but packaged so that it is not noticeable. Regarding the difference in capacitance: One speculation is another part of the circuit had to be modified because of the same reasoning (exact replacement not available), thus requiring a change in capacitor value.

  20. If it’s in a picture posted in an email newsletter and on a web page,it’s got to be true? Right? Just not enough information.

    Tim; While an ohm meter should tell you if a capacitor should be functional, it will not detect this situation.

  21. doug- not unless your meter has a microfarads setting :-) Even then, it wouldn’t detect the lower voltage rating – that’s more of a reliability thing.

  22. To those who say the two caps don’t match, note that the open one is shorter, which indicates that the bottom of the cap was cut off (it looks to me as if it was cut off on a lathe) and the part with the channel for the phenolic was discarded after it was removed from the phenolic base plate.

  23. If this is real, the only explanation I can come up with is that the “fake” capacitors are used to deter people from reverse engineering the circuit.

  24. Rubycon is apparently a Japanese company, and they make high grade caps. If you were going to counterfeit something like this using expensive high grade caps from a different manufacturer seems stupid. I think this is either someone pulling a prank, someone intentionally covering up parts of a design, or something equivalent to that. There must be a reason they cut the bottom off so cleanly. Perhaps someone trying to mess with their professor or something like that.

  25. This is actually becoming a major problem. This is why you should buy parts from authorized distributors only. I personally don’t mind shelling out the $0.34 extra for a trusted distributor.

    Check you distributor, make sure they are an authorized reseller for the brand and technology you are purchasing.

  26. Uhhh,

    as far as why they might use a rubicon as opposed to something cheaper, they aren’t as expensive if you are buying them on the surplus/gray market. which assuming that this is an intentional fake would be one way to make it a much more profitable venture.

  27. My 2 cents (or 2 pence actually): I think this is a ‘wind-up’ and no counterfeit capacitors like this exist. It would cost too much to produce them. Someone has to solder a real capaitor to the base and then they have to be put into the manufacturing process somehow and inserted into an empty can. It would be far easier to just incorrectly label existing capacitors with either a higher specification or high quality manufacturing name – like Rubycon’s ‘Black Gate’ series that are used in audio. In fact this is what has been done. There isn’t a huge amount to be saved just by using less electrolytic I wouldn’t think.

    I think the person who sent in the photo is having a laugh. I might be completely wrong, just my opinion.

  28. i agree with UHF, the guy who sent this in is having a laugh! “hey, watch all the geeks get flustered over capacitors!”

  29. I think this is a joke. There is a YouTube type video that shows someone getting 32 AA batteries out of a 6V lantern battery. This came on the heels of someone showing how to get eight watch type batteries out of an A23 12V type battery. (You can GOOGLE this or find it on Wikipedia.)

  30. I have 2 of the exact same caps, brand name & everything. They were removed from an operating stereo receiver. Both are genuine, & measure slightly over the 6800 uF rated value. I think the photo is either a limited problem, or a total joke.

  31. Another (slightly different) angle – I’ve seen “Atom” branded caps in their original size and orange covering that, when dissected, had much smaller (but correct value) caps inside. In this case, I suspect it’s merely a demand for these caps, complete with original size and shape, for certain vintage applications, rather then outright counterfeiting or mislabeling.

  32. Another (slightly different) angle – I’ve seen “Atom” branded caps in their original size and orange covering that, when dissected, had much smaller (but correct value) caps inside. In this case, I suspect it’s merely a demand for these caps, complete with original size and shape for certain vintage applications, rather then outright counterfeiting or mislabeling.

  33. I agree that the issue might be that there is a PCB prebuilt that specifies the case used by the bigger CAP and the hole spacing or size won’t work for the smaller cap. The smaller cap is actually a better quality device and maybe the circuit didn’t need the high value.

    however…

    Why not counterfit? I can see the reasoning.

    Audiophiles will pay upwards of $50.00 for a cap a normal engineer would pay $2.00 for because they can hear the difference (I’d be tempted to hear a difference if I paid a lot more too) ;-)

  34. Jollyrgr: those videos are entirely accurate, same as you can get 6x AAAA (slightly thinner than AAA) batteries out of a 9v. Some lantern batteries are made of four, squareish, D-ish-sized cells… but since no one buys lantern batteries anymore it’s likely cheaper to use 4 sets of 8 AA’s rather than manufacturing the custom cells.

  35. More 2 cents (pence) of coment: I have heard of vintage components having newer components inside to keep a classic look. But these are just normal specification capacitors and the photo is ‘suggesting’ that these went through a manufacturing process with a heat-shrink wrapper applied. If a component for a mass produced pcb became difficult to obtain, there are easier and cheaper alternatives to doing this.

    The photo is meant to suggest that counterfeiting by substituting a lower capacity capacitor has taken place, saving money on electrolytic. I say cobblers! It’s someone having a laugh.

  36. Nice way to smuggle things into the country (drugs etc.) You use these as CAPS in TV’s and power supplies and everything still works and tests OK.

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