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IPC CFX Works Toward One Common Goal: To Standardize Data Across the Electronics Industry

IPC’s annual conference and exhibition, IPC APEX EXPO, known for its bustling show floor presenting the most current trends in equipment and technology for the electronics industry, had a heightened sense of excitement this year. The IPC Connected Factory Exchange (CFX) showcase pulled the entire industry together in an unprecedented way by turning the show floor into a shop floor. For the first time ever, machines were talking to one another, and the human response was enthusiastic. By scanning a QR code using their phones, visitors on the show floor could bring up a mobile device website driven by the CFX cloud server. They could observe live standardized machine data from participating exhibitors through the cloud and on their mobile phones.

By the time IPC APEX EXPO 2018 ended on March 2, 664.5 million bytes of data had been exchanged, 701,200 CFX messages transmitted, and 245,000 views of CFX web site were taken, while only using .04 Mbps of network bandwidth consumed collectively by all endpoints throughout the show. More than 20 equipment vendors, software providers and customers from across the electronics industry participated in this unique demonstration. The CFX showcase illustrated how a committed group of industry professionals are creating a modern Internet of Things (IoT) for creating factory data exchange in an open and cost-effective manner.

The idea for CFX originated when IPC’s 2-17 Connected Factory Initiative Subcommittee determined that a 17-year-old standard, IPC-2541, Generic Requirements for Electronics Manufacturing Shop-Floor Equipment Communication Messages (CAMX), needed to be replaced. CAMX was designed to create a data standard to transmit information from the shop floor to the engineers, enabling them to track activity and be alerted to any difficulties with production. CAMX was problematic in that it required data to go through a proprietary message broker, slowing the process and inhibiting basic information from getting through to the shop floor. It was cost prohibitive for equipment manufacturers and smaller customers who would have had to pay to create specialized custom code enabling their machines to interface with all the systems. The subcommittee realized that several licensing and intellectual property issues had to be resolved, and that the IP should not be controlled by any entity other than IPC, nor a revenue generator for any company contributing to the standard.

By retaining the initial idea that it was necessary to transmit data from the shop floor to engineers, the 2-17 subcommittee created a free standard that provides uniformity of data content and transport. This allows ease of machine to machine communication as well as machine to business software systems by transmitting reliable and meaningful data across all systems and personnel needing it. They have created a machine data interface standard that enables manufacturers, equipment, device and software suppliers to achieve Industry 4.0 benefits.

The subcommittee’s charter states that the standard will support the goal of true “plug and play interoperability” of devices, systems and machines in the factory. The standard would provide for a “baseline required” data transport mechanism to support plug-and-play, but also allow for any number of additional and optional transport methods. However, to achieve the goal of plug and play interoperability when one purchases a machine or system compliant with the standard, a baseline transport would be necessary.

Encouraged by a strong belief that consensus and technical perspective sharing among a full cross section of the industry are critical to future adoption and success of CFX, the committee’s work led to the creation of a modern, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) method for creating factory data exchange in an elegant, cost effective, open, and free manner.

Nancy Jaster, IPC manager, design process and staff liaison to 2-17, describes the change that CFX will bring to the industry, stating “Like anyone else invested in technology and trends, we are always looking for the next step – the next thing that will take us to the newest, greatest, best. CFX is a whole new ball game. It will support home-grown systems throughout the factory and/ or commercial manufacturing execution systems (MES). It also supports connection to PLM and ERP. There is no middleware to buy, and all the data content and transport is free and open. In fact, the baseline transport is used by most banking transactions in the world, and is one of the most proven, secure IoT open-source technologies available It can be used with the cloud, or it can be kept internal to a factory, with internal knowledge not leaving the factory walls, all using the same transport mechanism and data definitions.”


The 2-17 committee recognizes that all companies provide unique contributions to manufacturing that make them competitive. The CFX standard is meant to enhance those unique qualities, not inhibit them. The goal is to provide a standard way for machines to talk to one another and to the other information systems within the factory. One important determining factor was keeping the terminology consistent. For example, if one machine uses the term “open door” and another machine uses “door open,” there is a problem. The machines can’t automatically talk to one another. Translation software would need to be written to make them talk to one another, increasing costs and time spent on the project. The CFX standard calls for consistency in terminology so that these issues do not occur. Technology plays a role in CFX, certainly, but by standardizing information content, you are enabling everyone to receive the same information, the same way, time after time. Because the information is encoded in a way that means the same thing all the time, any system that needs that information can upload it immediately. When every machine in the factory is in the ‘executing’ state, they are each sending the exact same CFX data content to report that they are executing, eliminating all custom interpreters and any possibility of error.

The standard is currently more than 200 pages long, with more than 150 members working on it.

Moving forward, the CFX 2-17 committee will meet every other week, with the goal of completing the standard later in 2018 The committee will focus on a building block approach, or, as Jaster explains, “We don’t look at it by machine, a, but one that allows you to pull the pieces you need for the work that you are doing. The standard centers on functionality, providing the same product for every manufacturer, but recognizing that how they use the data may vary.” Current sections, or “blocks,” of the standard under review will cover resource performance, SMT placement, solder paste printing, THT insertion, production and production assembly, test and inspection, and sensors identification.  As Jaster explains, “We want an initial standard out this year so people can start “testing the tires.” We need feedback on what works and what doesn’t. We know that the basic premise works because the standard was used in the demo at APEX. Vendors could code within 2 days and we all saw it work on the show floor. The standard is currently more than 200 pages long, with more than 150 members working on it.  The feedback we receive will serve to make the standard stronger and more useful

Adds David Bergman, IPC vice president of standards and training, “CFX breaks down each manufacturing step in a machine into basic building blocks of functionality. To define messages from a machine, you add these blocks up so that you build an adaptable data stream for virtually any machine without having to constantly revise the standard. Then the excitement starts to happen. You have the machine communicating out what’s going on in a standard format. We see CFX as the road or foundation for Industry 4.0. CFX has created the platform.”

The CFX Toolkit, also known as the CFX Messaging Library, is a free Microsoft .Net based programming library which will ease the burden of development for companies wanting to connect their equipment and software systems to the IPC Connected Factory Exchange messaging network. The CFX Messaging Library consists of two parts: One, a collection of data objects representing the standardized CFX messages and Two, a collection of classes to facilitate the transmission and receipt of CFX messages using the committee-agreed OASIS AMQP1.0 message wire protocol.

Jason Spera, CEO of Aegis Software and Co-Chair of the 2-17 subcommittee, commented, “The keys to widespread adoption and speed of adoption of a messaging standard to support the creation of real Industry 4.0 factories is the ease with which machine vendors, software vendors, and manufacturers can actually implement connection to a CFX network.”

Because IPC is a global industry association, the work on CFX will expand to include Europe and Asia teams for international participation and input. A CFX demo is planned for the upcoming SMT Hybrid event in Nuremberg, Germany, in June. Jaster says, “we are considering bringing the demo into our servers at IPC so that we can have an ongoing virtual demo available, allowing equipment manufacturers to submit data at any time.”

According to many at IPC, CFX really started with an idea initiated by the late Dieter Bergman. As IPC’s director of technology transfer, Bergman was a leader who encouraged the interchange between design and manufacturing, identifying future technologies and industry needs.

As Jaster explains, “Dieter Bergman planted the original seed. CAMX was something that he developed. He would have been thrilled to see his vision be realized through IPC. Our committee looked at CAMX and knew the time was right to take it to the next level. Things are converging in technology – the capability that wasn’t there before is there now and we can move forward and make a significant change.  As an engineer, I’m extremely proud and thrilled to be part of this revolution. The biggest thrill for me is watching this team of open minded committee members take off their company hat and put on their industry hat and do what is best for the industry. We are not inhibiting competitiveness, and we are not stifling creativity or innovation. Companies understand that they will continue to have their own unique profile – CFX just provides a common interface that everyone can use.”

For more information on CFX, visit www.ipc.org/Connected-Factory-Initiative

CFX breaks down each manufacturing step in a machine into basic building blocks of functionality

“Koh Young has a strategic focus on the Smart Factory concept. Its inherent ability to transform massive amounts of real 3D inspection data into actionable information that manufactures can use to transform their production floor is part of the driver behind our KSMART software. With its open standards and broad industry collaboration, the IPC Connected Factory Exchange (CFX) initiative helps suppliers and manufacturers alike effortlessly exchange data between production equipment and systems, like KSMART. This connectivity benefits manufacturers with a straight-forward approach to collect and feed information to systems for analysis to increase process efficiencies. From our own AI Platform developments to our relationships with other leading equipment suppliers, Koh Young continues to advance plug-and-play, future-proof connectivity options for its customers. Working with its KSMART partners, Koh Young has leveraged the true power of connectivity. The connectivity optimizes the process by exchanging real-time SPI and AOI measurement data with other machines in the production line. Koh Young systems feed real measurement data such as offset, volume, height, area, and warnings to other systems, while analyzing trends to optimize the process and identify trends. Koh Young is focused on developing KSMART as a primary vehicle to enable the future of electronics manufacturing, and the IPC CFX initiative is among the key elements.”

Brent A. Fischthal, Sr. Manager, Americas Marketing & Regional Sales, Koh Young America, Inc.

“Industry 4.0 Standards are revolutionizing how vendors and factories operate, aiming for innovation. Test Research, Inc. (TRI) had the opportunity to cooperate with their innovative PCB Inspection Solutions and other vendors through the IPC’s CFX Standard. Implementing CFX has been simple and practical, yet it has a great impact to drive Smart Factories.”

Robert Yebra, Marketing Specialist, Test Research, Inc

“CFX is one of many new initiatives currently under development in the manufacturing world at large to enable Industry 4.0 and IIoT. At Cogiscan we are focused on connecting the factory floor to enable the digital transformation of the electronics industry. As a result we support all existing and future industry standards such as CFX, as well as proprietary protocols, to insure that our partners’ machines and software solutions can seamlessly integrate with the global ecosystem.”

François Monette, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer,  Cogiscan Inc

“The IPC Connected factory iniative is a standard for digital communication across all factory machines sensors, devices and software systems.”

Daniele Di Nunzio, US Area Sales Manager, JBC Tools

“CFX we believe, or the way I would portray it, is going to be a strong foundation for Industry 4.0.”

David Bergman, VP Standards & Training, IPC Association

“With CFX we are trying to establish a standard that will simplify connection, and by that we will free up valuable resources for focusing on new topics instead of just converting data.”


Thomas Marktscheffel, Director Product Management, ASM

“We even had a vendor, just two or three days ago, ask us to participate and they were able to do so because it’s that simple to use”

Nancy Jaster, Manager of Design Programs, IPC Association


“The industry needs some standard to democratise the standardisation of the data exchange between machines and systems in the factory, and CFX does that”

Jason Spera, CEO, Aegis Software

“For the past 5 years, the electronics manufacturing industry has been working towards an industry 4.0 initiative. Every equipment provider is working hand in hand with electronic manufacturers to materialize the digital factory, but the development pace is far below expectation. This could be due to every party working independently and data is hardly available to share across processes.  Different technologies, protocols and formats used have made the realization of the digital factory shop-floor complicated.  CFX launched the first digital factory demo at APEX 2018, to showcase the feasibility of adopting the new standard on protocols and format to connect from different machines and providers. In fact, this is not new technology, but leveraging on existing reliable technology such as JSON and AMQP.  The challenge here is now as CFX start to grow and attract a greater crowd of providers and customers to adopt.  We anticipate with the greater involvement of related parties to provide constructive ideas and concepts, will further expedite the process of sharpening the standard and driving the industry towards revolution.”

Khoo Yak Hua, R&D Manager, Vitrox

“CFX is an open protocol, we are a company that strongly believes we provide our customers with the best value add possible, and is connecting all these pieces of equipment together”

Dr. Bill Cardoso, President, Creative Electron

“We don’t want to make adjustments on our own in an isolated sense, we want to make adjustments or suggestions to the end customer on how to improve their process, gaining the knowledge from the rest of the line”

Miles Moreau, Product Development, KIC Thermal

“It is important that the machines are talking to each other daily, developing the information system of a company”

Luciano Bonaria, President and Founder, SPEA

“IPC is a connecting factory initiative, meant for vertical integration from the shop floor to the MES system.”

Ragnar Vaga, Business Development Manager, YXLON

“We will see for the first time how different vendors decided on a common platform to transmit machine data into the cloud, this is unique that hasn’t been done in any manufacturing environment.”

Carsten Salewski, President & CEO, Viscom

“A lot of times you can get data, but it is not data you can do anything with. Whereas CFX provides you with the data in a way that you can take proper action, reduce defects, gain efficiencies and improve the process – and the best part is it’s free!”

Marc Peo, President, Heller Industries

The Right Path to Industry 4.0 is Open, Free and Standards-Based Factory Communications