Digital Specs for Automated Manufacturing: Find the Missing Link!


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Automation and connected smart factories are the new manufacturing trend. Industry 4.0 and the Internet of things (IoT) continue to enter PCB manufacturing. However, if we continue down the same path with specifications and requirements written on electronic papers and unintelligent production files, human interpretation is still crucial to avoid mistakes. CircuitData could solve this problem because having one language for automated smart factories is the future!

With the I-Connect007 article about the grand opening of the Unimicron factory in Germany fresh in mind, I also had the opportunity to visit it in June for the 50th anniversary of EIPC. I have seen hundreds of PCB factories virtually, but this was my first time seeing a smart PCB factory in person. The tour showed me how far we have come if we use all available tools. Further, it reminded me of the missing links that disable a true digital chain of information needed to utilize systems in smart factories, such as Unimicron and Whelen Engineering’s GreenSource Fabrication in the United States.

Automating PCB Production

Today, most processes in a smart PCB factory can be automated and monitored. Continued innovation is accelerating the Industry 4.0 transformation of the PCB factory. We strive to analyze and share time-production data to be able to understand and act immediately. When I have visited and audited PCB factories lately, I have seen a growing trend—even with more traditional factories—to have connected equipment, such as online and real-time process monitoring, remote production, and maintenance alarms.

Observing this, it is puzzling to me that we still feed factories with specifications and requirements written on electronic papers and unintelligent production files. Experts in the industry continue to claim that a fabrication drawing printed on A3 paper is vital to understand customers’ requirements. Corporate requirements—even the measurable parts—are given in an analog way into an increasingly digital environment. In almost every issue of I-Connect007’s magazines and other publications, we read about how Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing are growing and changing the production environment.

To read this entire column, which appeared in the October 2018 issue of Design007 Magazine, click here.

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