How Do I Get Smart With IPC CFX? (Part 2)
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.
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.
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.
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.
2. CFX Machine-to-Factory, “Big Data”
Collection of data from manufacturing has long been used to generate reports and create dashboards. The difficulty has always been to piece together and contextualize data acquired both automatically from the disparate machine interfaces as well as from human operators who report events in different ways, especially when they have different roles—such as quality management, line supervision, machine operator, material logistics operator, etc. With CFX, all data is available in an accurate and timely way (Figure 6).
Figure 6: CFX machine-to-factory “big data” example.
The uses of production data are many and varied. Each role within the factory has a different context with which to create and view metrics. With CFX providing the event data, each role in manufacturing can create whatever view of the data that they like with no built-in assumptions.
Using CFX data to make reports brings added value in terms of data accuracy. However, the core value of a historical report is very limited, as it simply details losses that cannot be recovered. The use of the same data to create real-time dashboards can be much more rewarding, as targeted metrics indicate trends in manufacturing as they happen, giving the opportunity to take corrective action before the effects become serious.
But continuously watching dashboards in case an issue should arise is also not a good use of time, so an extension of this allows the software to detect patterns and trends in the data that trigger alarms. The people responsible for dealing with specific exceptions in operation can then be clearly informed as issues arise, no matter where they are or what they are doing.
Industry 4.0 goes one further step, which allows the software to make simple, routine decisions automatically, such as the creation of the Lean “pull” signal to bring materials to the line when needed, or in a complex case, to detect a delivery delay and automatically re-route production to faster resources. To help such decisions, information from every aspect of the factory operation is required. Applications providing such solutions using CFX data are expected to evolve rapidly, providing decision-making support in fast response to changing circumstances, eliminating risk and causes of sub-optimal equipment utilization.
Data from the machines to the factory can also be used to prove compliance and conformance as well as construct the complete digital build record of the production of each individual production unit.
3. CFX Factory-to-Machines, Self-optimization
In isolation, machines and other automated processes are destined to simply follow the set of instructions that they are given. More modern automation comes within a software environment designed to add value to the automation through the acquisition and conversion of engineering data, performing program optimization, job grouping, etc. However, the machine environment software is limited by its ability to gain data from outside of the immediate vendor-controlled environment.
CFX provides the opportunity for any endpoint on the network to subscribe to data from any other machine or factory process. This includes the ability to see both upstream and downstream on the line in which the machine is operating, being able to participate in closed-loops, and also have visibility of production units on their way—all independently of which vendors’ machines are present.
In addition, the machine software can look at other elements that may affect their performance. For example, materials for a placement machine can become a critical issue where a replenishment material may be from a different vendor than the material currently in use on the machine and may have slightly different physical parameters. Even different feeding attributes, such as rotation in the feeder, would result in significant quality issues and/or line disruption if not noticed or accounted for.
With the ability of CFX to bring material data to the attention of the machine software in advance of the physical material arriving, automated compensation for any material changes can be put into place seamlessly, avoiding quality issues and machine downtime. There are many such opportunities for the machine software to obtain information related to the wider operation of the factory, in terms of materials, planning, and scheduling, as well as quality, where safe poka-yoke control can also provide a major benefit through the implementation of active quality management without the risk of compromise to the machine.
4. CFX Transactional Operations
The successful operation of a production line depends on many supporting operations. Placement machines, for example, cannot function without the correct materials being available and set up correctly. The knowledge and management of material availability, verification, and logistics—as well as tools, which include SMT feeders—is essential to not only allow continuous production but also for production optimization. Factory planning in a highly flexible operation needs to be able to react very quickly to changing production demands and changing circumstances, such as a machine breakdown.
To complete critical product deliveries on time often means sudden unexpected changes must be made in the production plan. At these times, it is essential that all of the factors are known about the current production status so that any requirement or consequence of a change can be definitively known and rapid and effective decisions can be made. CFX includes messages related to processes and operations on which production is dependent, enabling management of those key areas and inclusion of them as constraints in any urgent re-planning scenario. Information about these areas is also of key interest for maintenance where CFX enables vendors to monitor work done by machines to plan maintenance tasks and potentially needed spare parts.
The connection of the assembly area with enterprise systems, such as ERP or PLM, is also critical. Traditional enterprise systems have little feedback or understanding of the details of assembly processes and rely on manual correction and “back-flushing” at the end of the operation to understand completions and material usage. The knowledge of intermediate completions and material spoilage, for example, is very limited, which limits the effectiveness of enterprise software. With the use of CFX messaging—especially with MES support—enterprise systems can gain an accurate status of the progress of manufacturing when needed, enhancing their operation and greatly improving the efficiency of the whole factory operation.
The introduction of the CFX standard is the critical trigger that enables smart, flexible factory operation in line with business needs. The technology is simple to adopt, which creates a true “plug-and-play” environment on which advanced production AI software technologies can be developed. Today, we take our network of highways and advanced automobiles for granted. Only movies show us the times where we depended on horses and carts on windy tracks and trails. With CFX as the new standard highway infrastructure for digital manufacturing, the evolution of smart, AI manufacturing applications can now grow, firing on all cylinders.
This article was originally presented at the Technical Proceedings of SMTA International 2018.
Michael Ford is the senior director of emerging industry strategy at Aegis Software.