Fake Omron Relays are Worth What You Pay For Them

We love taking a look at fake components and [BigClive] has put together something really special in this category. When he saw he could buy suspiciously cheap Omron relays on eBay, he knew something must be fishy so he put in an order.

Some of the fakes he received are even marked Omrch instead of Omron, and your ear can detect the counterfeits by the varying sounds they make during operation. But of course [Clive’s] investigation goes much deeper than that. He started driving the relays to their rated voltages and taking temperatures with a FLIR camera.

The results were not surprising. At lower voltages the relays seemed to do okay, but closer to the maximums it’s obvious the components in the fakes are not rated for enough power to work. You can even see some charring of a resistor and its plastic holder from having too much power for the component’s rating. [Clive] actually replaced the errant resistor with a higher value resistor that reduces the current consumption and power dissipated.

He was also suspicious of the metal content of the contacts. You may think that doesn’t matter, but actually, the composition of relay contacts is critical to making reliable relay circuits. Depending on how much current flows and if the switching is dry (that is, made without current flowing) or not dictates use of different material.

The conclusion was that these relays might work for light duty projects, but for commercial projects or operating near the edge of the ratings, you want to give these a pass. If you do need a lot of low-power relays on the cheap — to compute a square root, or to build the whole computer — [Clive’s] process of testing and characterizing these fakes may come in handy for you.

36 thoughts on “Fake Omron Relays are Worth What You Pay For Them

  1. I was working for the hospitals for a long time.
    On one of your inspections with the electrical inspector in one of the newer sections that was
    build in the 90’s it ended up having had 2 fake Federal Pioneer 400 amp breakers installed.
    It blew me away when we discovered the fakes.
    These breakers controlled some of the ICU, prenatal care and OR recovery.
    With this in hand I told my boss that they had to be changed as fast as possible with the electrical Inspector saying the same as me, and the breakers had to be properly identified.
    I had to fight tooth and nail to get these breakers replaced.
    The breakers were located on our Emergency power system. I told the electrical inspector the problems I was having so
    he ended up writing them up with a fine if they were not changed out.

    They put peoples lives at risk for over a year. And they do it all the time to us not just this once. I had the breakers sorsed and ready to be delivered in a week after the discovery. And then they had the gall to ask why my price was lower then the job. I told them at the time the quote went in it was only good for 30-45 days.
    But mangagement keep saying the money was not in the budget. We were only talking about $3000 total including installation.

    We did end up doing the work and changing them after 1 1/2 years after they were discovered. This was what 1 hr of the CEO’s pay.

    I was told by the electrical inspector that the breakers were rated for 125 amp and were being used on 400 amp loads. And we were actually overloading them to 390 amps. And yea the Inspector was not happy about that ether.
    That was my real first time dealing with fake equipment and parts.

    One more little story. The same Hospital had ordered 200 electric/electronic beds from germany. OK No problems, But.
    Non of the beds were approved to be used in canada or the USA. Now that almost doubled the price of the beds.
    They had nowhere to store the beds till the parts came in to certify them.
    They also had nowhere to but these beds to be tested.
    You think no big deal, Right? All these bed are my responsibility to keep patients safe. If One of these nice new beds hurt some one it would have been my neck.

    The Last kicker. ALL the old beds were put in all the electrical rooms on a long weekend. Again with the electrical inspector are going on our routine inspection of the hospital. The first electrical room was full from floor to ceiling with beds. All the Electrical and Mechanical rooms were full. I Don’T KNOW…. Really I don’t know what they were thinking.
    That one cost the hospital big time. Fined on the spot, and 24hrs to remove all the beds.

    Sorry for the stories, and sorry for so long. You may think CANADA has a great health care think again.
    Now think of what they are not telling you about your local Hospitals…

    And lastly — I try my best at typing this out the best I can. I just hope that it makes you think Fakes can be anything or any part Lajjit or not.

    1. Hospital Management in Australia is exactly the same. Im convinced there is a hospital mangers school where they teach them the technique of shoving their heads up their clacker than how to absolve themselves of all responsibility – letting someone further down the chain wear it.

      1. Hearing the complaints from colleagues about some hospitals they’ve worked on… I can confirm this.

        It’s almost as if the injuries generated by these dodgy decisions are part of their business plan for ensuring the financial viability of the hospital.

    2. Can you elaborate on why they were approved in Germany but not the USA or Canada? Was it more of a “we use this robust series of standards” and somebody else uses a “different but otherwise just as good” set? Or is it more that there are actual, meaningful differences in the standards? I would think that most German electrical standards for hospital or critical case use in particular are probably fairly robust and well defined overall is my current understanding.

      1. I’m not the Original Poster (OP) but I suspect they were 230 volt beds and the USA and Canada are 120 volt.
        Certified for Germany (or the EU) means nothing on the other side of the pond. They probably had to find certified (e.g. UL listed) equivalent parts to install.

      2. Standards evolve depending on risks observed in the field. Because of the observed risks differ simply because accident X happens in the states and accident Y happens in Germany, the standards body in the states may add a rule to prevent X from happening again, that is not mirrored in Germany. So even when a German manufacturer builds a bed to their best ability to be safe, and conforming to the European rules, it will most likely not meet some of the small rules for American hospital beds.

        Similarly, there is simply paperwork that needs to be in order for products to be allowed on the European market. As long as the paperwork is not in order, the stuff is illegal even if it might pass the technical part of the regulations.

      3. Everyone has a fairly similar set of standards but there’s enough differences and enough paperwork to fill in that it’s not trivial and not transferable.

        Same with vehicle regulations – a car that meets EU standards will probably be 99.9% the same as one that meets US standards (or vice-versa) but they’re not identical and you can’t just tick a box and say it’s fine, you’ve gotta do all the proof.

        1. A lot of the basic standards are pretty same, but the US emissions standards are a lot tighter than most of the world. Supposedly at one point, half of Mercedes’s engineering team was dedicated to passing US emissions standards.

    3. Getting sued one day is going to be way more costly than promptly fixing known hazards. Sure it’s unfortunate to have to spend extra money that was not part of the original budget. It’s better than multiple people getting hurt or killed and paying lawyers for *years* on a class action suit.

    4. Every country has there standards. And there are about 3o different symbols with letters ect.. give or take.
      One would be like “U L” in a circle. That would mean its approved for use in canada.
      The extra parts were the power supplies. These new power supplies were a little bit different looking, and I’m sure the insides were very different. More Isolated I guess. And a real stupped 24″ #6 ground wire. And I don’t understand that… Witch we couldn’t use because the beds had to move from room to room. And if we did use this ground wire it would of men’t every time someone had to move I would of had to go and disconnect this ground wire and reconnect.

      One more little thing. If you were board with your phone you can take control of all the lighting in the hospital. Including the Operating Rooms. And YES I told them that this was possible and even should them. BUT WHAT DO I KNOW…..

  2. i couldn’t figure out why the relays have LED’s+resistors in them. those seem like indicators, but i’ve never seen/used/needed relays with those in them. if some ever show up here, i’ll cut the LED’s+resistors out.

    1. I always want indicators on my relays. Try troubleshooting a piece of industrial equipment with 20 or 30 relays in a row and poor lighting!
      However, in those cases, I wouldn’t source the relays from the cheapest online source either.

  3. It’s surprising how many products Clive turns up that are just outright lethal. My favorite recently is the Fish-O-Cuter (his name), an aquarium lighting product sent to him by a guy whose fish it killed, and could have just as easily done in the owner.

  4. The Hackaday summary mis-interprets bigclive’s results. He found that the current limiting resistor that is used for the indication is not up to the job at 220V. Just snipping the wire and doing without the indication is a safe fix for that. Another one would be to divide the 220V voltage drop in 20-200 and drop 20 across a resistor, and 200 across a capacitor. Much less heat. (I don’t feel like doing the math now to calculate the capacitor. It’s probably going to be way too big to fit inside…..).

  5. Why not a tear down of an expensive product that isn’t worth it’s money? It’s not personal on the auther, but I often read biased ‘reviews’ of ‘overseas’ products.
    I often buy overseas, I know that I should support the local retailer, but in Belgium – and many other country’s I guess – the government is taking all our money.
    Summary of all the things I bought overseas: maximum 1 in 10 is faulty, the products are less then 1/3rd of the price over here, so I saved al lot of money.
    I’ve made a grow led lamp, 400 watt for about 150€. It takes 380 watt from the wall. I already could test it for 3 months and there was no failure. I allready ordered the components for a spare one, because if you would buy a ready made growlamp with the same real power output, it would cost no less than a 1000€ and would be hard to repair if that one fails. So…
    I don’t look for the absolute cheapest, It’s sometimes I gamble, but in the end, you save a lot of money.
    I’m not sponsored in any way :) , I just wanna do a lot with the little money I have.

    1. The classic example – if not quite new – is the Juicero. There are teardowns of that on the Internet. It was vastly overengineered and full of custom high-quality machined parts to squash a juice pack that you could squash just as well with your hands.

    2. One reason not to might be that the reviewer has to buy the expensive product. I don’t know Bigclive’s financial situation or what return he gets from a typical video, but he might be reluctant to sink a lot of money into too many. He’s so prolific that it might quickly overwhelm his budget.

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