The Convergence: IPC Merging CFX With IPC-2581


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Gary Carter of XPLM and Michael Ford of Aegis Software are heading a group tasked with combining the IPC-2581 standard, now referred to as Digital Product Model Exchange (DPMX), with IPC’s Connected Factory Exchange (CFX). During the IPC Summer Meetings, they sat down with me to discuss the benefits that can be expected when these standards are fully merged for both PCB designers and process engineers on the manufacturing floor, especially when it comes to satisfying compliance and traceability requirements.

Andy Shaughnessy: Nice to see you both again. And I understand the two of you are co-chairs on the committee that’s working on combining DPMX and CFX. Tell me about that.

Gary Carter: Sure. The 2-10 Committee is looking to leverage the synergy between a number of IPC standards to describe now digital best practices that IPC owns, from beginning to end of design and manufacturing of PCB-based products.

Michael Ford: The strength of IPC standards is that each of them satisfies a particular need in the industry. DPMX is a great example where we needed to get an extremely complicated set of information from design to manufacturing in a single file. Why do we need to understand so many different files and try to put them together and cross-reference everything?

It’s the kind of role people would have had 20 years ago. Now, it’s sent through in one digital format that has always been your digital product model for exchanging the data from design through manufacturing.

Another digital standard—the Connected Factory Exchange (CFX)—allows data to be exchanged between machines and factory systems. Put the two together, and you start to think, “Well, I have my digital product model exchange coming in, together with that from CFX, so I know what to do and how to do it. I can measure what I’m doing. Let’s put those two things together. What benefit is that going to make? Couldn’t I feed that information back through to design to make a complete digital loop for manufacturing?”

But this is not something that you have to buy. This is something that is a digitally created technology IPC standard so that everybody can use it. There’s no real cost to ownership. You can choose your favorite engineering, design, or manufacturing tools. The nice thing is that digital best practices are now defined by IPC through DPMX, CFX, and even our traceability standard, IPC-1782, which defines the type of information that needs to be retained by manufacturing to satisfy compliance and traceability requirements.

Shaughnessy: How long have you all been working on this?

Carter: The last year and a half. We’ve been talking and co-presenting in some venues and brainstorming on other IPC standards that add to this value proposition and need to be a part of this story.

Shaughnessy: It seems like there would be some natural hurdles; design data is one type of data, but CFX is a different animal. How do you blend the two?

Ford: It is, though DPMX consists of many different kinds of data, and that data is exactly what is needed in manufacturing, by machines, for example. Even before we started this project, there were cases where DPMX data was used by particular machine vendors because they needed access to the design information to understand where the components were supposed to go, what measurements they were supposed to take, and what they should expect to see in visual inspection.

As far as translating the standard design format into a standard manufacturing format, it’s the same data source, but sections of the data are being used for the different manufacturing processes. So, CFX already carries the ability to take the data derived from the design and out to the machines. We’re improving on that as time goes on. We’re collaborating in terms of the definitions of the standard so that we can be more specific and make it easier for machine vendors, for instance, to understand the layout of this board in terms of X, Y, and Z, and know how to get that data through CFX, which is derived from DPMX.

This flow, which would have taken an engineer hours, if not days, to achieve, can be done with the hit of a button because the information is now standard. It doesn’t matter where it came from or where it’s going in terms of engineering tools because it’s the same format.

To read the full article, which appeared in the September 2019 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.

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