IPC-2581 benefits both the designers and manufacturers in Industry 4.0. Michael Ford, European Marketing Director at Aegis Software Corporation, told us about the advantages when we met him during PCB West.
- IPC-2581 allows us to create a digital product model within one file.
- We choose which machine in the line will perform each task and allocate the data accordingly.
- IPC-2581 is an XML format which means that a human can read it and a system can read it.
- Industry 4.0 requires getting data from design through to manufacturing extremely quickly.
0:10 Could you give us some idea about yourself and your association with IPC-2581?
I’m Michael Ford. I work with Aegis Software, but more recently I’m very active with IPC. And part of the IPC standards, of course, IPC-2581 is now a key focus of interest. For me, myself, I’m very much into promoting Smart Factory operation Industry 4.0 for the future. And 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.
0:53 Can you give us the genesis of Industry 4.0?
Yes. They talk about industrial revolutions, of course. Now, normally we talk about that after they’ve happened. This time we’re looking ahead a little bit. But the third industrial revolution involved the creation of automatic machines and those machines powered by electricity for example. And that’s what we see today in most factories. We see robots. We see SMT Machines. Those are all Industry 3.0 machines. They’re automated processes. 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.
The changing customer demand
And it’s the changing customer demand that has really driven Industry 4.0. 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’re doing. It’s like a grandfather clock. It had a, you know, a purpose and it would keep on running. Today manufacturing has to change day by day to meet the changing customer need.
And so normal operation of a factory will become very inefficient in doing that because products assigned to a particular line, that line rate will never match the customer demand. So if the customer demand is 800 and the line capability’s 1000, you’ve lost 20% productivity right there. But you have 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’s simply not done. Manufacturing accepts that loss. We can’t do that in Industry 4.0. If the customer says today we want 800, then we move the product to a line that runs at 100% efficiency making 800. And then the faster line we assign to another customer.
A digital model within one file
That means the product is moved from one configuration to another configuration very quickly. IPC-2581 allows us to create a digital product model within one file. And we can quickly in our engineering systems choose the line configuration for today and create the necessary data for those machines. Now, in the past you would have, as Hemant was saying earlier, you would have different files, pictures, drawings, whatever, and 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.
A week later maybe you had a program under the line ready to run. You can’t do that day by day. So 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 because it takes just a few minutes to convert that digital product data into a running SMT line.
4:04 Could you elaborate on the use of IPC-2581 in your Industry 4.0 concept?
The data for all of manufacturing is contained within that file. Now, there are various elements that different machines will require. And so, whether it’s location of components, component shapes and geometries, whether it’s test points or anything like that, you could say it’s kind of a translation. You choose which machine in the line will perform each task and then you 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.
And so the IPC-2581 file includes the base information with which to create documentation such that when we assign jobs to manual operators which typically today in a modern factory will be using paperless operation with lots of little videos in there to it, show exactly how things are done, we want to make sure that we reference the exact design intent as part of that documentation so that there’s no kind of challenges to, well, this document shows this but this document, it seems different. That happens today but it all comes from the same source. Through IPC-2581 it’s the same consistent data.
5:23 What happens with IPC-2581 when a manufacturer modifies the original customer’s data for manufacturing?
The real challenge is to make sure that the designer’s intent is captured and that should any modifications be made that they are consistent with the designer’s intent and also that we have information fed back to the designer. So at the moment if people are using Gerber and making manual editing that there’s no track of reference. You don’t know what somebody did.
If something then later goes wrong who has the responsibility? Very, very difficult to go back. One example is that you have any products these days where you have a lot of different variations. Some of those variations are driven by the features of a particular product, some of them are driven by cost performance, you know, reducing the cost, exchanging materials or changing layouts a little bit. So I understand how this kind of changes are made and to save time you can implement them within manufacturing.
Edit the original content
With IPC-2581 you’ve got the original digital content. And by editing that original content you could then create the record of that change being happened. This is all subject to manufacturing and customer relationships because in many cases it should be spun back to the original designer.
But for example, where materials to be used are obsolete and you need to substitute a different material with a different package shape so you have a different land pattern, you need to change the design. Does that go back to the designer who forgot about this design two years ago? And, you know, it’s going to take a long time for him to get back up to speed.
Or could we modify it locally and just do it, just get it done. But let’s get it done in a way that we’ve got traceability so that everybody can understand that this has happened and can approve it, can see it. I think that is the answer.
7:30 So what you are saying is that it is possible to do editing and also maintain traceability?
Yes, absolutely. The really great things about IPC-2581 is that is an XML format which means that a human can read it and a system can read it. And so you can very quickly see if somebody were to change it. Then you can see where the change is and you can then sort of put a record to say who changed it and how it was changed.
But tools in manufacturing could also re-output an IPC-2581 and then you would be able to see the version difference.
8:00 What if designers forget to remove some traces, planes, etc. that could create a problem in manufacturing when they create a Gerber? Can IPC-2581 handle these issues?
One thing that you have to remember is that the Gerber data isn’t the design data. It’s a graphical output that’s intended for use in fabrication. So the actual outlines of things, I mean, even these kinds of fragments of design that you’re talking about, they aren’t necessarily part of the original design.
When creating the Gerber, it adds in various elements to compensate for the manufacturing process. This actually introduces errors and potential mistakes. So this is kind of like a correction process for that. With IPC-2581 there should not be these kinds of issues. And if there are, the designer needs to be called to task. But you should find that IPC-2581 data is clean and immediately usable.
8:53 Why has Aegis chosen to support IPC-2581?
First of all, we feel that quite a bit of time has gone on since IPC-2581 was originally created. And I have to say that people who originally created the idea, it was good for the time it was created. Now it’s not good. It’s an absolute necessity. Because of this Industry 4.0 which Aegis as a company is promoting – I mean, we work with IPC for the connected factory exchange where we want to have a complete and open bi-directional IoT communication directly with all of the machines, no intermediate software or anything like that, no middleware, anything like that, but direct access to fully functional information.
Software tools for flexible factories
And that drives Industry 4.0 because we believe that the software tools that people will need in the future are those which will make the factory flexible and will be able to control manage and augment decisions being made, for example, to change the schedule or move a product from one line to the next. People will continue to make those decisions. Our people in manufacturing who have that skill and experience will always be required. But they will make better decisions and much faster decisions if they can see all of the information.
But it’s completely useless if these people come along and say, “I can really improve the factory productivity by 30 or 50% if we do this and this and this and this and this. I can see the data. I understand what to do. But my design data is fixed on this machine. I don’t have the flexibility to move this out.”
10:38 If we were to convert our manufacturing to IPC-2581, what do we need to do?
We, as part of IPC, are making the best practices for digital manufacturing in the future. And so it starts with IPC-2581. You then need to select an engineering tool which can take the IPC-2581, create that digital product model and for example, what we do in our software is to say, “I’m not going to fix the configuration, I’m going to look at the product model, understand what is needed, separate things out into logical processes and be ready.
I’m now ready for a decision to put this particular product onto a particular line configuration. I’m also ready, for example, where I have 100 variants of a different product. I can simply select the variant I want and say that variant, that line, this variant, this line, this quantity. And I can simply do that.” That kind of engineering tool can then create the specific engineering outputs for all of the particular machines at a moment’s notice and be able to say, “Right, this is the plan we think we need for today. Everybody’s happy, go, and just execute.”
11:45 In SMT programming, you create an SMT program based on X, Y data. Is this going to change in the IPC-2581 scenario?
Yes. The market has changed significantly. Because the problem was always how do you optimize and SMT machine? Do you use an external software to be able to look at the line and then make the optimization? But then you send the programs to the machine and they have to change and then you end up with a line that’s not balanced. That kind of operation has almost disappeared now.
What the machine vendors can offer in an Industry 4.0 environment is to be able to make a very high level of sophisticated optimization, not just for this product that we’re making.
But what is the next one coming, and the next one and the next one? Where are my common factors for my feeder setups? The machine vendor knows best of all how to do that. But what they don’t have until now is the reliable information with which to do that. And the reason for that is because it used to take so long to get all of the information, sort it out, correct it, revised, checked, signed off, trials done. With IPC-2581 you don’t do any of that. You simply have the data, you know it’s correct, you send it out. And the machine vendors can optimize their own environment.
12:59 So if you have the IPC-2581 files of ten jobs which have to be done in succession by a set of lines, you can send them all to the machines and everything will be taken care of?
Yes, absolutely. And today that’s a luxury. It’s a feature that many machine vendors offer and it provides a better support. In the future when we’re all Industry 4.0 that is essential. Nobody will be able to not do that.