i4.0 today

By David W. Bergman, Vice President Standards & Training, IPC – Association Connecting Electronics Industries

2018 was an extremely eventful year for IPC’s Connected Factory Exchange (CFX) initiative (IPC – 2581). While the standard was still being written a significant effort was put in place to raise awareness and build industry support for IPC-CFX – the foundation of Industry 4.0.


A comprehensive website was created to build industry awareness and highlight companies that are behind the CFX movement.  Currently more than 70 equipment providers have indicated willingness to support CFX as well as multiple software providers and manufacturing partners.  The website provides an application process for joining IPC’s CFX committee as well as an opportunity for companies to spotlight their support.   For those individuals/companies that want to jump in deep, a resources page provides a one-hour tutorial on how to write CFX messages as well as promotional videos and case studies on successful implementations of IPC-CFX.

Demos, demos and more demos….

CFX demos launched in February 2018 with the first of its kind virtual demonstration. Equipment manufacturers on the IPC Apex Expo show floor published CFX messages from equipment in their booths.  These messages were directed to a cloud server and from there to attendees’ mobile phones. Over 800,000 messages were published and delivered during APEX Expo show week and companies as individuals got their first glimpse as to how CFX could help create the future of smart factories.

In June 2018, the virtual demonstration moved to Nürnberg Germany as part of the SMT Hybrid show.  Interest continued to build in CFX, and we saw more companies and more equipment for the European debut of CFX.  Once again, the demonstration was nearly flawless as show attendees could monitor the activity of equipment on the show floor of SMT Nürnberg.  By September, the CFX committee was ready to gamble on building a manufacturing line and manufacture product. The team goal was to build CFX assemblies at What’s New in Electronics Show September 2018 in Birmingham UK.   A manufacturing line was constructed and PCBAs were built during the WNIE show.  And finally, a full-size manufacturing line was built at the LEAP show in Shenzhen China in October.  Again, CFX assemblies were built on the show floor and major crowds got to experience CFX.  The demonstration was highly popular.  So much so that the state news media spent time interviewing IPC staff and members on the benefits of IPC-CFX. A five-minute clip made the evening news that day in China.

With all of the successes, of CFX it’s sometimes difficult to remember that the standard was still being written by the committee and messages still being created and implemented.

Other collaborations

IPC’s CFX committee actively solicited collaboration with other industry supported open-source standards. The first opportunity considered was with the Hermes Standards Initiative. The Hermes standard initiative is a machine vendor effort to create an open source standard for line control.  The participants in the Hermes initiative consider the standard to be an upgrade of previously released SMEMA standards for line control.  Discussions on cooperation started in Nürnberg in June and with positive reactions from both sides,  IPC and the Hermes Standard initiative discussed releasing the Hermes standard as IPC-Hermes-9852. IPC-Hermes-9852 is out for final vote with release expected in January. CFX and Hermes are already working together cooperatively. In addition, IPC staff visited the PROTEC show and met with the chairman of the JARA-1014 committee to discuss opportunities for cooperation the 1014 committee and CFX. The JARA-1014 chairman of the committee expressed openness to discuss collaboration and recommended further meetings and presentations take place following the release of the version 1.0 of CFX.

We’ve got your SDK

It is quite obvious that one of the major reasons for the positive traction seen in the adoption of IPC’s CFX standard was the creation, donation and free availability of a CFX Software Development Kit (SDK). The SDK lowered the barrier for companies to be able to communicate from their native format to CFX.  Once previously would have been weeks of programming time was now reduced to just a few hours.  The ease of implementation that the SDK facilitated, allowed some companies join the tradeshow demonstrations last minute. The donated SDK was developed in a Windows environment using .net format. This format was determined to be too expensive for some applications and innovation led to companies exploring avenues to participate in CFX. OK International wanted to incorporate CFX output into their soldering hand tools but found that using .net and Windows would be prohibitively expensive. They turned to Linux as an operating system and managed to incorporate CFX in the hand tool cartridges economically. As OKI achieved success using Linux, other companies expressed interest.  Also, companies expressed interest in working an SDK in other languages/formats including LabVIEW, Python and Node JavaScript.  IPC is encouraging the development of these additional SDKs and to help the process has created a series of networking lists to encourage individuals to work together create SDKs for these other formats:  CFXLinux@IPC.org; CFXPython@IPC.org; CFXLabview@ipc.org; CFXNodeJS@ipc.org Industry participants can send a subscribe message to the appropriate list or subscribe through IPC’s website.

Next steps

IPC 2591 IPC CFX currently in final ballot ending mid-January.  IPC-Hermes-9852 is also in ballot closing in December.  It is anticipated that both standards will be approved and released in January.

And not to be left out of the manufacturing business, IPC APEX Expo will feature two production lines, at which visitors can see and experience achievements made in digital standards development over the past year.

The first line will feature both the HERMES standard (IPC-Hermes-9852) and IPC’s Connected Factory eXchange (CFX) IoT messaging standard (IPC-2591), working seamlessly together to deliver SMT automation value. The second line will feature the wider application of IPC CFX across multiple technologies of assembly production, including manual processes. Both lines feature machines from different vendors, all speaking the same language, creating demonstrable value from machine-to-machine communication, creating a simple to operate, practical, smart and fully connected manufacturing environment.

The following companies will be participating in the show floor production lines:

  • Aegis Software
  • ASM Assembly Systems
  • Asys
  • Cogiscan
  • Creative Electron
  • Flexlink
  • Fuji
  • Heller
  • Keysight
  • KIC
  • Koh Young
  • Kulicke & Soffa
  • Nutek
  • OK International
  • Pemtron
  • Saki
  • Test Research
  • Vayo

In addition to the show floor production lines, IPC will host an Industry 4.0 Buzz Session, “How IPC-2581 Enables Industry 4.0” on Wednesday, January 30. The Buzz Session will feature short presentations, a panel discussion and opportunities for attendees to ask questions.

For more information on the IPC CFX Showcase or Buzz Session on Industry 4.0, visit www.ipcapexexpo.org and for more information on the CFX standards, visit, www.ipc.org/Connected-Factory-Initiative