IPC APEX EXPO 2019 to Demo Operating CFX Line
A year on from their first demonstration, IPC’s Connected Factory Exchange (CFX) now nears the release of version 1.0 at this year’s upcoming IPC APEX EXPO. The I-Connect007 team spoke with CFX specialists Michael Ford and Dave Bergman about how far the program has come from the first initial public demo all the way through now becoming a published standard, and what users can expect from the demonstrations planned for the 2019 show.
Barry Matties: Gentlemen, can you please tell people about the CFX program at IPC APEX EXPO 2019—what should they know?
Dave Bergman: I am the current staff liaison for the CFX committee for IPC. Michael serves as a working chairman. We have three chairmen, but Michael is a vital industry volunteer. He is the glue for all the pieces, answering tons of questions, and giving presentations everywhere. He has a crucial role in this effort and works very hard on this, including staying up late to do interviews like this one. I am happy he is joining.
From IPC’s perspective and what we have going, I think it’s important to note that IPC-2591 CFX is marching forward continuously and getting nearer to publication. CFX is in a 30-day final draft for industry review cycle per our standardization rules. Then, it will be followed by a 30-day vote cycle where companies need to give a vote of approval—a thumbs up, thumbs down, or technical comments.
We’re doing this circulation slightly differently: IPC-2591 explains everything about CFX and provides examples and explanations. The nuts and bolts of CFX, which are the messages that machines both publish and consume, are on the open-source software development site called GitHub. We pushed both the standard and the GitHub link out a week or so ago to have people starting to look at. I am happy to announce that we are getting closer to the release of version 1.0 of CFX.
At the same time that we’re doing that, Michael and the committee decided we had to draw a line in the sand somewhere. We looked at this and said, “Does CFX have enough content that the industry can start implementing it and getting excited about it?” We drew the line in the sand and said, “Okay, this is enough for now. Let’s stop here, get this approved and published, and then we’ll turn our focus on additional messages.” At IPC APEX EXPO, we will start to discuss messaging for the 1.1 version of CFX, which will be part of the activity that takes place in San Diego this year.
In addition, we will highlight several things at IPC APEX EXPO 2019, including the collaboration between IPC and the HERMES Consortium. The HERMES standard should also be approved as an IPC standard IPC-9852 because that is undergoing a consensus vote very soon. The HERMES Consortium will also meet at IPC APEX EXPO 2019, so they will be talking about any potential upgrades for that standard format.
Then, the most exciting thing will be the show floor demonstration. We plan to have two manufacturing lines. We needed to go with two because there are more and more companies interested in showcasing their capability. We will have one manufacturing line, which is a combination of both the HERMES format, which will be IPC-9852, and CFX, which is IPC-2591. We’ll run messages in both of those standards and an assembly operation on the show floor.
We will have a second line, which will be all CFX. Some companies don’t do both formats. Some companies have said, “I can only have so many manufacturing pieces of equipment within the line.” So, the second line gives more companies the ability to participate outside of the combined HERMES/CFX line. I think people are going to get to see some very exciting activities. We’ve been building on this. We did the first CFX manufacturing line in Birmingham, England, in the U.K. in September. Then, we did one at the LEAP Expo with MMI in Shenzhen, China, in October. This will be the next step—adding in collaboration with HERMES—and then expanding from our virtual demonstrations when we have that at this year’s IPC APEX EXPO.
Michael Ford: Yeah, it’s easy to forget that it was not even a year ago at IPC APEX EXPO 2018 when people saw CFX working for the first time. The people there could not believe that they could just go to a QR code with their mobile phone and look at data with value and meaning from so many different machine vendors all in one platform—no installation or configuration, it was just there.
That was the point where started to chart the history of what’s happened over the last year in terms of people getting really excited about it. Whenever we talk about CFX, you would think that people would be into all of the messaging, protocol, and technical stuff, which people do have an interest in. But for me, most of the questions surround, “How is CFX going to solve Industry 4.0 and how is going to bring me that value?” People are talking about the value that is brought for manufacturers as well as that for machine vendors.
For example, in the beginning, we had a number of machine vendors who were interested in taking part in that very first demo. What you will see coming up is that so many more machine vendors have come along. Even those who had kind of been holding out, hedging their bets, and waiting to see what the industry was going to do have heard from customers who had specific issues in manufacturing related to Industry 4.0, and suddenly related to making machine processes smarter than they used to be.
They’re being faced with the idea of having to develop something again, worrying it’s going to cost too much money, and it will all bespoke for this customer. But now CFX is in their minds, and they’re thinking, “Well, with that CFX demo we saw, we could use the messages in that to achieve what we want to do.” They start to really understand the business process that this represents for the whole industry. It’s not just one or two companies or certain of companies—absolutely everyone that is involved is going to benefit from this.
As we’ve been talking about CFX, the business processes have been put into place as well. That is what drives the achievement of that critical mass of adoption for the standard, which I believe is happening behind the scenes right now. A lot of companies have taken on board their own demonstrations. They’ve set it up in their own workshops and are starting to go out and explain it to customers proactively. We’ve had people come along recently and say, “The software development kit (SDK) that we have is completely free of charge from IPC and it is so easy for people to adopt CFX, but what about smaller pieces of equipment?” We had one company with soldering irons. How do you embed a whole infrastructure of an industrial internet of things (IIoT) standard within a soldering iron? They came up with a solution. It’s a five-millimeter square chip, and they’re running a Linux-based software development kit and producing CFX messages directly and natively from their soldering irons.
This is something I hope we are going to see at IPC APEX EXPO 2019—the fact that it’s not just the big expensive machines now. The majority of the machines that actually exist in the factory are smaller, bespoke, niche, specialist, and even homemade for the functional testers. We’re even talking about a method to integrate all of that within CFX as well. It means that the excitement is reaching areas that, from what we’ve seen in the past in terms of communication, it has never even gone to. It’s never even been able to get kind of close to these areas.
But CFX, even now that we are imminently close to publication, has already started to reach these kinds of people. It’s really exciting to see it coming together because that marks the sustainability for CFX in the future. We’ve had an incredible year with so many people providing contributions and ideas, and getting together and talking. Even direct competitors are willing to talk to each other and help each other out in certain areas. It’s been an amazing ride.
The milestone of getting this first revision, as Dave said, has everything in there that we need to establish this as a real, usable, and valuable industry standard, and we will have further messages to come. On this publication date, we’re going to find a lot of people who already have embedded CFX into their machines. We have around 40–50 different machine types that already have CFX. Many people are already developing and close to having full support for their machines. This was an amazing year from the first initial public demo all the way through now to a published standard, and not only that, but the actual implementation being supported as well.
To read the full article, which appeared in the December 2019 issue of SMT007 Magazine, click here.