APEX 2019: The Official Launch of CFX


Michael Ford, Sr. Director Emerging Industry Strategy, Aegis Software

For the last two years, Aegis has taken on the role of help coordinating the IPC’s Connected Factory Exchange Standard (CFX), which, as of January 2019, has been unanimously approved by the IPC CFX committee. Two live manufacturing line demonstrations at the APEX show in San Diego were set up to demonstrate the openness and values of this new, unique standard.

What makes the CFX standard unique, is that the entire content of data and messaging is specifically defined in a single, unambiguous format, that has been agreed amongst the many hundreds of participating machine vendors. Aegis has been significant in centrally coordinating all of the various contributions of the CFX language definition, guiding machine vendors and others to understand how to represent what were originally proprietary parameters, into a common form.

At APEX 2019, the first live manufacturing line focused on the excellence of automated SMT line management, featuring both the new IPC Hermes standard that replaces SMEMA, as well as CFX. Working together, these standards delivered unprecedented seamless automation throughout the line, in which each machine came from a different vendor. This scenario would normally be an absolute nightmare to manage. On the second line, CFX was shown to span from SMT to manual assembly and inspection processes including a rework station, all the way through to final box-build. Again, all machines and processes came from many different vendors. The ability to get visibility and have control of the line, using a single set of data was unprecedented

The role of Aegis, and other software providers, is to gather and utilize the data from the machines, and to provide feedback in the form of information and control, for example validation of production units. In Aegis’ case at the show, we provided the Hermes – CFX data exchange, unit validation for the two lines, and standard dashboards above each machine in the line, all based on our FactoryLogix software supporting CFX natively. We extended the dashboard facility to other CFX contributing machine vendors on the shop-floor so that they were clearly seen by visitors as equal contributors to CFX.

The demo at APEX was not without its challenges. Having 18 vendors working together to set up two live manufacturing lines in just two days represented a massive challenge, to which IPC staff members, Aegis, and machine vendor staff rose unflinchingly, ensuring that everything was ready for the first visitor tour on the Tuesday morning. Prior to the show, there had been no business trips required for machine vendors to implement CFX natively on their machines. Such is the transformation in the way that CFX works as opposed to traditional interfaces. Some took the opportunity to fine-tune their software during the show, adding capability and visibility.

In all, more than 600 visitors enjoyed the tours of the lines, seeing the real data flow simply by using their personal devices to view the www.connectedfactoryexchange.com website, as well as seeing the familiar useful production metrics on the dashboards. With no “smoke or mirrors”, CFX is now established as the IIoT standard of choice for Industry 4.0, available for everyone from the IPC, including software development toolkits (SDK) in many languages, for rapid implementation. In one case, a machine vendor at the show, using the SDK, created CFX natively from their machines with just 24 hours lead-time.

With the defined data content of CFX, the security of the CFX protocol, the availability of SDKs, as well as the sheer breadth and depth of CFX messages to support every conceivable requirement on an assembly shop-floor, CFX is likely to be the last standard that anyone will need. It is also likely to be the last interface that anyone has to develop, and has the potential to replace all prior data standards in other manufacturing vertical markets and proprietary formats.

Industry 4.0, for real, for everyone, starts now!

As seen at the show, the next release of FactoryLogix features native CFX support. The use of natively generated and consumed CFX data means that FactoryLogix has access to the highest common factor of machine data, as opposed to the lowest common denominator of individual machine interfaces. Reliability and performance of machine connections is enhanced, as well as the value from the data. FactoryLogix, as a digital MES platform, brings management and context to CFX messages, essential where CFX is applied to a modern manufacturing operation, looking to embrace the opportunities and challenges of true Industry 4.0 and associated benefits.

For more information on the FactoryLogix implementation of CFX, please contact us through the website, and of course, keep up to date on CFX by visiting http://www.ipc-cfx.org.

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