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Valued Contributor III
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Fake FPGA chips - or not?

Recently I have bought several Cyclone III chips, and before soldering them, noticed that new chips are different from those I was buying for almost a decade. 

 

Here's the pic attached. New FPGA is to the left, old FPGA is to the right. New one's year of production seems to be 2017, old one's is 2015. 

 

I have suspended the production, and created a support request# 11406605 to the Altera (now Intel) asking them two simple things: 

 

1. May it happen that new chip I bought a counterfeit as it differs with old one? 

2. Where's the pin 1 of the new chip? 

 

Now in detail. 

 

Chips differ slightly in two major aspects. It seems that the 

- material body of chips are made of differs, leading to change of how text looks like on the body. Old chips were having brighter color of the engraving, and new chip having more reddish color of the engraving (and thus plastic it is made of); 

- font used, the biggest difference is in "III" text, and it is more or less seen on the pic. 

 

The biggest issue, which made me stuck. I would be able to tolerate the font and body color difference (which I noticed after I focused on this issue) - but the second technological grooving is not documented in the manuals (https://www.altera.com/content/dam/altera-www/global/en_us/pdfs/literature/packaging/04r00402-01.pdf). Current image per specification (attached) has no clue about ALTERA text on the body and has only one grooving identifying pin 1. https://alteraforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=15460&stc=1 You can say I am paranoid, and that old chip is having ALTERA logo, and pin 1 at the left top corner of it, and that new one must follow the same rule. 

 

But I say that while chip image is out of specified in the documentation, this rule may simple change, and, with some even minor probability such assumption may be wrong. I can not allow myself tolerate this even minor probability as it will lead to a loss of specific amount of time, money and material. 

 

Today is the 3rd day I wait for response from Altera (Intel). Not sure if questions I asked are too complicated, stupid, or hard ot tricky. But manufacturing is on hold. 

 

I decided to perform my own investigation, and found out that some time ago, between these 15 and 17 years, Altera changed manufacturing fab from TSMC to Intel, and this may be the reason for the change of physical properties of the chip - plastic body material, font, and additional confusing grooves on the chip's body. 

 

I want to get definite answers to the questions I asked, and changes being documented properly. 

https://alteraforum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=15459&stc=1
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Valued Contributor III
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Altera's usual answer to those questions is that you need to buy the components from approved distributors, that will guarantee the components are genuine. If you bought them from a brooker, you are on your own unfortunately.

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Valued Contributor III
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But Altera can say that differences I see between 2015 and 2017 devices are (looking like) valid ones? And that pin 1 is where it is assumed to be? 

 

Note that I DO NOT calim that my devices are counterfeit. I want to ensure they, with high probability, are not counterfeit. And it is logical to go to manufacturer asking the questions I asked about differences in their manufactured devices. 

 

At the end of the day, it is Altera's (already realized) revenue and image.
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Valued Contributor III
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In my experience they never answer directly to those questions.

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Valued Contributor III
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The incident was resolved - Altera support engineer pointed me to the following document (https://www.altera.com/content/dam/altera-www/global/en_us/pdfs/literature/pcn/pcn1502.pdf) explaining difference in the chip's look. There was no info regarding slight font change and body color difference, I assume these changes were accompanything plastic body manufacturing process and were not considered as significant to be documented.

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