Welcome to Industry 4.0 where automation and efficient data exchange rule over the “smart factory” world we live in. Open, neutral and global, IPC-2581 was created to fit in this fourth industrial revolution.
Michael Ford, Marketing Director at Aegis Software Corporation and member of the IPC-2581 Consortium, believes that the standard is now key focus of interest. As he told us, “I’m very much into promoting smart factory operation Industry 4.0 for the future.”
However, Michael Ford continued, “It’s often neglected about what is needed from the design side in order to make Industry 4.0 possible. Because you actually can’t do Industry 4.0 unless you have a method of getting data from design through to manufacturing extremely quickly and without any mistakes.” Which is why IPC-2581 is set to retire good ol’ Gerber.
The genesis of Industry 4.0
Let’s first dig into Industry 4.0: What does it mean? When did it start? What is so particular about it? When it comes to industrial revolutions, we normally talk about them once they have happened. But the fourth industrial revolution is special, “This time we’re looking ahead a little bit,” Michael Ford said. We are in Industry 4.0 and we are well aware of it.
The third industrial revolution involved the creation of automatic machines, such as machines powered by electricity. And today, if you find yourself on a factory floor, this is all you can see: Robots, SMT machines, etc. Those are all automated process machines from Industry 3.0. Michael Ford explained, “Industry 4.0 sits above that in the way that it is controlling and optimizing all of the automated processes so that they can become very flexible and yet optimized as they are focused on the changing customer demand.”
Industry 4.0 was driven by the changing customer demand. “In the past, we used to make a plan for manufacturing that would last a month, three months, six months… We would know what we were doing. It’s like a grandfather clock. It had a purpose and it would keep on running. Today manufacturing has to change day by day to meet the changing customer need.”
The normal operation of a factory will become very inefficient in doing that because the product line rate will never match the customer demand. To help you picture this, we are going to use the example Michael gave us: If the customer demand is 800 and the line capability is 1000, you have lost 20% productivity. But the manufacturer has to have the 1000 capability in case the customer changes their mind. It takes so long with legacy engineering methods to move a product from one line configuration to another that it is simply not done. Manufacturing accepts that loss.
Manufacturers no longer have to accept that loss in Industry 4.0. “If the customer says they want 800 today, then the product is moved to a line that runs at 100% efficiency, making 800. And the faster line will be assigned to another customer.” Products are moved from one configuration to another configuration very quickly.
How does IPC-2581 fit in Industry 4.0?
IPC-2581 allows the creation of a digital product model within one file. In their engineering systems, manufacturers can choose the line configuration for today and create the necessary data for those machines. “In the past, you would have different files, pictures, drawings, etc., Michael Ford stated. You would give them all to the various machine vendors. And you would say, ‘You do this. You do this. You do this.’ and talk to each other and try and get it done.”
This method would take at least a few days to have a program under the line ready to run. There simply was no day by day method. IPC-2581 resolves this issue since “having a single product model into a digital manufacturing engineering engine then allows you to choose the configuration day by day or even hour by hour.”
It indeed only takes a few minutes to convert that digital product data into a running SMT line.
The use of IPC-2581 in Industry 4.0
The strong suit of IPC-2581 is the fact that a single file contains the data for all of manufacturing. Now, what about the various elements that different machines will require? Like the location of components, component shapes and geometries, test points, and so on? Michael Ford says “it is kind of a translation.” Manufacturers choose which machine in the line will perform each task and then allocate the data accordingly. “But what you mustn’t forget is that the line isn’t only machines. There are people also doing manual assembly operations.”
The IPC-2581 file includes the base information with which to create documentation. For instance, when manufacturers assign jobs to manual operators – which in a modern factory will be a paperless operation – videos, for example, will show them exactly how things are done. Manufacturers have to make sure that they reference the exact design intent as part of that documentation. By offering the same consistent data, IPC-2581 puts an end to the document confusion that manufacturers had to deal with in the past.
The benefits for the customers
In one word: Price. IPC-2581 is a win-win situation for both fabricators and customers. You will save money because we will spend less time working on your circuit boards. And as you know, manufacturing time costs a lot! You can read more about the benefits as well as customer testimonials in our IPC-2581: Set to retire Gerber files across the board article.