MUNICH -- More than a dozen leading electronics manufacturing equipment suppliers have agreed on a nonproprietary protocol for moving PCBs down an SMT assembly line with full traceability.

The new standard is TCP/IP- and XML-based and would replace the SMEMA standard that's been in effect for more than 20 years.

At a meeting in Munich, 17 OEMs agreed to a proposal to adopt the Hermes Standard for vendor-independent machine-to-machine communication in SMT assembly. The protocol is purported to permit product to be transported with no loss of data as it moves from machine to machine. It is felt the protocol marks a big step toward implementing the so-called smart factory.

The initiative was proposed by ASM Assembly Systems and Asys, which wanted to develop a new communication interface to replace the longtime SMEMA standard, which is considered obsolete. The concept was proposed last year, and on Mar. 22 the vendors assembled in Munich to approve the first version of the open protocol.

The specification is expected to be published by the end of June, at which time third-party vendors can commence development activities. The goal is to introduce products that communicate with other line components via the Hermes Standard at the Productronica trade show in November.

The Hermes standard  uses TCP/IP to permit all stations on an SMT line (printers, conveyors, placement machines, AOI systems, reflow ovens, etc.) to talk to each other. It employs expandable XML data structures to transmit information like board IDs, conveyor speeds and circuit carrier dimensions. Each board must be identified only once by a Hermes standard-compatible machine at the start of the line. With its publication as an open standard, the Hermes standard will be available to all SMT equipment vendors at no cost. And since the protocol was designed to be expandable, users will over the medium term be able to pass additional information down the line.

Participants represented ASM, Asys, Cyberoptics, KIC, Koh Young, Mirtec, Mycronic, Nutek, Omron, Parmi, Rehm, Saki, SMT, Viscom, Yamaha and YJ Link.

“Smart Factory calls for integration across the entire production floor," says Florian Ritter, manager, business & product portfolio development of Asys. "Different equipment vendors from the industry have to come together in order to provide the customer with intelligent, yet simple solutions. Exactly this is what the Hermes Standard aims to do: we want to establish an effective, simple standard for M2M communication – across the entire SMT line. This meeting with 17 leading equipment providers for the SMT production showed how great the need for such a standard truly is. As Asys, we are proud to be directly involved already during the development phase. We are excited about this idea and will continue to actively drive it. Thanks to the Hermes Standard, we are getting closer to our idea of the Smart Factory, all the while focusing on customer-oriented solutions.”

Thomas Bliem, director of product management placement systems at ASM, added: “We are overwhelmed by the positive response to the Hermes initiative. The fact that major SMT equipment vendors cooperated in creating a modern, future-oriented and open standard for communication and data exchange between all components of an SMT line demonstrates that we have accepted the challenges of Industry 4.0 and are doing our part to develop integrated and smart SMT factories. And we are doing it quickly – the Hermes Standard is expected to be finalized by the end of this year. This is excellent news for electronics manufacturers all over the world.”

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