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2019 – The Year of Machine Communication

2019 – The Year of Machine Communication

The 2019 IPC APEX will be remembered as the show where the machines talked, and perhaps equally importantly, 2019 will be the year the machines and vendors collaborated to make real product on the show floor. This year the IPC, along with more than twenty vendors built two fully connected, fully functioning lines on the exhibition floor, one with CFX and one with CFX and Hermes. These lines ran every hour, successfully making product and delivering data to the cloud for everyone to see.

As the realization of Industry 4.0 matures, a larger number of companies now share a holistic view of the SMT line. The view of the SMT line as a set of individual boxes has now been replaced by the view of the SMT line as a set of intelligent systems that talk to each other. And beyond that, systems that can learn from each other’s mistakes and each other’s observations. The IPC CFX line demonstration this year was an important step towards the realization of this holistic vision, perhaps a seminal moment.

Griffin Lemaster explaining how the TruView Fusion AXI connects to the CFX SMT line at APEX 2019

To execute our own vision towards the smart SMT line, Creative Electron launched the all new TruViewTM Fusion AXI at APEX and installed it in the CFX line, successfully connecting to the whole manufacturing ecosystem. This inline x-ray system provides in-line inspection to assess the overall quality of the boards assembled in the SMT line. What’s more it provides some of the inspection data, that we firmly believe will become the currency of the smart factory, delivering value well beyond a go/no-go signal and helping improve overall line performance.

Connectivity is an absolutely essential foundation of industry 4.0 and while many refer to this as the age of data, that data is useless unless it is shared effectively. A smart factory must be a connected factory!

Whilst CFX has pushed this debate to the front of people’s minds, it is important to remember that connectivity is the core element, not the standard. Indeed, there are many mature standards, like GEM which is hugely successful in the semiconductor industry and more recently the PCB fabrication industry, that can deliver the kind of connectivity needed. Whilst we are actively involved in the CFX standard, our job is to be able to connect, regardless of protocols and in every factory environment.

Fundamentally, Industry 4.0 requires machines to ‘read, record, relay and react’, That means reading and collecting data, recording every process and parameter, relaying that data to a larger system and finally reacting to incoming data from external machines or systems. We’re ensuring everything we develop and build with fulfil these requirements and be smart factory, or industry 4.0, ready!

The opening show of the year, CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, was full of smart devices, that when connected, can make our day to day lives better. APEX was about smart machines, that when connected can do the same in manufacturing, making the whole process of product introduction, manufacturing and fulfillment better. And when we say better, we mean faster, more economic, more efficient, high quality and with greater flexibility and agility.

In many ways, the fundamental or a smart home or a smart city are not dissimilar to those of the smart factory of the future. At the core of all these ’smart’ ecosystems is a connected network of devices.

I expect that this year we will be able to get past the standards and methods of communications and I hope we can start to take connectivity for granted. For me connectivity is ‘table stakes’, if your machines don’t connect, you may as well not be in the game. Once we reached that level of connectivity we will be able to achieve the value promised by a connected manufacturing ecosystem, where every machine communicates openly with every other part of the line.

Machines that talk, will allow us to collect data, derive intelligence and improve performance, surely that’s what everyone wants!

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