LAS VEGAS — A group of electronics assembly equipment and software providers agreed this week to write a standard for shop floor communication.

The IPC Shop Floor Communications Subcommittee effectively revived a longstanding task group for machine communication, one which has existed for more than 15 years but been dormant of late.

The effort was spurred by the announcement last week, by Mentor Graphics, of a new specification aimed at bi-directional machine communication in line with Industry 4.0.

That announcement spurred quick response by vendors that felt such a spec was "critically needed" but should be coordinated through an independent organization such as IPC, as opposed to being under the auspices of a single vendor.

Accordingly, dozens of equipment vendors, congregated here for the IPC Apex Expo trade show, agreed in a meeting to commit resources to develop a consensus standard.

Mentor Graphics, which was at the meeting and made a presentation, reportedly has agreed to turn over certain elements of its OML specification to the subcommittee for possible inclusion in the new standard, which is intended to provide uniformity of data protocols that will allow ease of machine-to-machine communication.

In a statement, the IPC subcommittee chairman Jason Spera said, “The subcommittee is firmly committed to developing the standard and is also working to provide an easy-to-understand definition of Industry 4.0 and its significance. The group is working to identify additional committee leaders from the customer and machine side.”

Spera is CEO of Aegis Software, which like Mentor develops factory automation standard, but was not working on a specific proprietary M2M specification.

In 2001, an IPC committee developed IPC-2541, "Generic Requirements for Electronics Manufacturing Shop-Floor Equipment Communication Messages (CAMX)," colloquially referred to as CAMX. It followed that up in 2003 with IPC-2501:2003, "Definition for Web-Based Exchange of XML Data." According to some of the meeting participants, CAMX will be among the existing specifications considered as a basis for the new standard.

“Machine vendors want to engage quickly and all parties agree that a replacement for the current [CAMX] is needed and demanded by industry and speed of execution is critical,” said David Bergman, IPC vice president of standards and training. “During the meeting two commercial initiatives were presented, and based on those two presentations, the subcommittee realized that several licensing and intellectual property issues need to be resolved before the new standard can progress. The subcommittee also determined that the IP cannot be controlled by any entity other than IPC, nor a revenue generator for any company contributing to the standard.”

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