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So who's doing this reviewing then?

Well I've been building and flying or driving radio controlled models for over 40 years and during that time I like to think I've built up a reasonable amount of knowledge.

I'm also a qualified electronics engineer who has worked in radio frequency, analog, digital systems and software for more than three decades. In fact I designed and built my first RC set back in 1969.

For the past nine years I've also been involved in the design and manufacture of some rather sophisticated engine technology and UAV flight control systems.

So, chances are I've been there, done that and have a huge pile of tee shirts to prove it.

Right now I'm heavily into 3D flying and enjoy all aspects of the RC hobby. I may be old but I don't feel it.

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Buyer Beware: Fake Futaba S3003 Servos


Dated: 9 Oct 2010

A couple of months ago an RC Model Reviews reader emailed me to advise that he'd recently bought what he thought were some Futaba servos online, only to discover that when they arrived, they didn't look quite right.

He offered to send me one to examine... and here's what I found.

Externally, the servos look quite similar but they're clearly not identical.

A genuine Futaba servo has a matte finish to its plastic case, the fake one is shiny.

There is also a difference in the shape of both the top and bottom sections of the servo-case which becomes apparent when the two servos are compared side-by-side.

Also very noticeable is the black output shaft found on the genuine servo, versus the white shaft of the counterfeit one and the fact that the original has enclosed holes for its mounting gromets, the fake has open-sided holes.

The stickers with the Futaba name are also ever-so-slightly different when closely compared.

But it wasn't cosmetic differences that concerned me, and the reader who'd paid good money for what appear to be knock-off copies of the Futaba servo. It was inside that we'd really see if these counterfeits were "up to scratch"

The first thing I noticed was that the four screws holding the servo together had a much shorter threaded portion on the fake servo. Only about 3mm of the screw was doing any work when the servo was assembled.

The output gear in the fake servo is significantly different to that in the genuine one.

As you can see in the picture below - it has a much smaller number of much coarser teeth. In fact, the output gear has the largest teeth I've ever seen in a servo -- something that may adversely affect the operation of the unit once a load is applied.

What was surprisingly good however, is that unlike the genuine Futaba, the knock-off has a hefty bronze bush to support the output shaft. This is actually much better than the plastic-on-plastic setup of the real thing.

Pulling the bottom off the cases shows us the electronics and wiring. Here the genuine Futaba is much better than the counterfeit.

The fake servo has much lower-quality soldering and the wires are routed to different parts of the circuit board with no form of support. This servo would fail if placed in any model where there was vibration.

By comparison, the genuine Futaba servo has the three wires soldered to the edge of the circuit board where they are supported by the rubber grommet which also stops water or oil getting into the case.

Here is more evidence of the inconsistent quality of soldering on the fake servos.

I'll soon be testing the counterfeit servo to see how it stacks up to the original in terms of power, accuracy and speed -- but based on the quality of construction and resulting reliability - I think it's safe to say that, at least in this case, "genuine is best".

So be careful when shopping online, especially if you use sites like eBay. Just as many people have discovered that their cheap Spektrum receivers are not genuine, those cheap Futaba servos may also be fakes.

If you've had other experience with fake RC products purchased online, please visit the RC Model Reviews forums and share your experiences.

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Here's a blog that will keep you informed just what's going on behind the scenes at RC Model Reviews and also tells you a little more about myself.

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