How Do I Get Smart With IPC CFX? (Part 2)


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In Part 1, Michael Ford described automation in the SMT assembly industry and where CFX fits in. In Part 2, Ford looks at the CFX adoption, the values and challenges of digitalization with CFX, and the scope of CFX utilization.

CFX Adoption

Historically, as well as the lack of defined data content, legacy communication standards within assembly manufacturing failed to become widely adopted due to related costs and difficulties to implement. In the case of CFX, a free, open-source software development kit (SDK) is available to anyone who would like to fast-track support of CFX into their machines or IT solutions. The CFX SDK is available through the GitHub source-code sharing site and comes with full documentation covering messages and data structures. This can be freely incorporated into commercial applications, including machines, bespoke processes—such as functional test equipment—as well as various manufacturing solutions.

Though it is expected that there will be a wide range of adoption of CFX by mainstream equipment vendors, there will be cases where older machines will remain unsupported without native CFX support. In these cases, CFX capability can be provided through the use of a simple, inexpensive add-on box, which could contain a Raspberry Pi computer with any required inputs and outputs to gather and deliver data between the machine and the CFX environment, for example. Customization of the software within the add-on box is likely depending on the machine to which it is being applied.

Values and Challenges of Digitalization With CFX

The challenges of factory digitalization, in line with expectations of smart factory or Industry 4.0, are almost completely removed with the adoption of CFX. In terms of the manufacturing business, requirements for data needed for critical decision-making support needed for fully flexible factory operations are fully met through the specific information definition and timing of CFX messages. Innovation towards smart factory solutions can finally begin on a practical basis.

CFX is sustainable since it affords the same opportunity for machine vendors to create their own added-value solutions and values through the use of CFX data derived from other machines and processes. The ability for machine vendors to generate product enhancement and create additional revenue streams adds to their benefit from CFX of the elimination of costs to create and support bespoke interfaces for customers. IT teams and solution providers also benefit significantly, as the cost of data acquisition becomes a mere fraction of what it once was. In addition, the data has better quality, detail, and consistency, and is capable of supporting further smart solutions and Industry 4.0 innovation.

Scope of CFX Utilization

There are as many potential values from the use of CFX data as there are ideas for smart functions in assembly factories. The scope of CFX has been defined to include support for all known and existing software functions as well as those expected in the future. There are three layers of information exchange within the typical assembly factory. CFX is designed to support all three, including the connection of each layer.

CFX4.jpg Figure 4: Examples of CFX message transfer.

Each of the three layers shown in Figure 4 provides information through CFX as well as utilizing data from other layers and processes. CFX creates the “big data” environment in assembly manufacturing. The following four examples are each based on a different flow of CFX messages.

1. CFX Machine-to-Machine, Closed-loop Application

The principle of a “closed-loop” is that the analysis of the output of a process is used to modify the input and operational parameters used throughout the process. There are several ways of applying closed-loops on an SMT manufacturing line with many examples having been developed. Unfortunately, these legacy examples rely on bespoke machine connections that have been set up with extensive work and testing and only work with specific combinations of machines with specific software versions. With CFX, as long as each machine supports CFX, the connection of advanced closed-loops is as simple as “plug and play.”

The closed-loop application may be provided by any one of the machine vendors in the line, a third-party software, or even a combination. Figure 5 shows an example of a more complex closed-loop line.

CFX5.jpg Figure 5: CFX machine-to-machine, closed-loop example application.

The sequence of steps performed is as follows:

  • Each uniquely identified PCB flows in from the left
  • The screen-printing operation is performed
  • The paste inspection operation is performed
  • Data from the paste inspection (1) is analyzed to find deviations between the specified printing position as determined by the engineering data and the actual measured position
  • Following analysis, a correction parameter (2) is sent to the screen printer to compensate for the printing deviation such that the next PCBs should not have any deviation
  • In addition, a compensation factor parameter (2) is sent to the SMT placement machine such that placements on the specific production unit analyzed will not be affected by the printing deviation that already occurred; this compensation factor is also fed to the optical inspection machine so that the compensation applied by SMT is not reported as an error
  • The optical inspection machine, bearing in mind the placement compensation, will also measure any deviation in the placements (3) and feed the data back to the SMT placement machine
  • The SMT placement machine can analyze the data from the automated inspection machine to determine any root causes—for example, whether deviations are simple offsets, skews, related to a nozzle, head or feeder, etc.—such that corrective action can be suggested back to the SMT placement machine operator

The effect of such closed-loop operations, looking at historical examples, have resulted in an order of magnitude improvement in first-pass yield together with associated reduction of losses in productivity and quality.

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