(image: copyright ASM Assembly Systems)
So far, 17 equipment manufacturers from the SMT industry have come together to form “The Hermes Standard” initiative. Their goal: create an open and modern board flow management protocol for SMT lines that will replace the old SMEMA standard. I spoke with Thomas Bliem, Director Product Management at ASM Assembly Systems, about the details of this project.
Thomas Bliem: “SMEMA has become obsolete. From its wiring to the communication via hardware signals, it is no longer able to meet the requirements of a modern M2M interface. At the same time, you need more advanced board flow management capabilities as lot sizes decrease. SMEMA does not allow you to transmit board-specific information nor to have machines acknowledge that boards have been successfully transferred from one machine to the next. You can’t even synchronize the conveyor system seriously with SMEMA. That’s no longer sufficient for today’s needs, which is why The Hermes Initiative has come about.
Thomas Bliem: It starts with the basics. The Hermes Standard is based on TCP/IP and XML. It uses modern cables and data formats. That alone simplifies the integration process and reduces costs. Even version 1.0 of the new standard comes with features that our customers miss in SMEMA. For example, you can transmit barcode information and board- and job-related data such as dimensions, BoardIDs, barcodes, and ProductTypeID. This replaces the traditional requirements to read barcodes before each machine, because the information can now be exchanged between the machines – even those from different manufacturers or performing different jobs.
It’s also important to keep in mind that this is only the beginning, because The Hermes Standard is open and expandable. Over time we can integrate additional board flow management functions up to automatic program changes and accommodate the latest developments in the smart SMT factory field. Anyone can use this standard without a license and develop solutions on its basis, which is another important signal to electronics manufacturers.
Thomas Bliem: That’s more good news for our industry. The members of the Founders’ Initiative have agreed on an ambitious schedule. Version 1.0 of „The Hermes Standard“ is in the final coordination stage and will be published in the coming weeks. Any company can check out the open protocol via its web platform and develop its own Hermes-based solutions. The members of the Founders’ Initiative are aiming to present the first solutions at this year’s Productronica show. This schedule alone is evidence that everyone is pushing for a new standard in order to realize new, smart production concepts.
Thomas Bliem: Yes, the Founders’ Initiative includes many well-known companies, some of whom actually compete against one another. But the need for a new standard is so great that they decided to overcome the old ‘us versus them’ way of thinking and are cooperating for the benefit of a common goal. On a more personal note: I experienced a highly constructive and collegial level of collaborations during various levels of meetings. The Founders’ Initiative combines are a wide range of technical competencies, and all members are pulling together to produce results as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, not every manufacturer accepted the invitation, but that was no surprise. After all, this type of cooperative networking outside of the classic committee structure is new for many. Not everyone was courageous enough to attend. Some prefer to take a more classic approach or to wait and see what happens. But the Founders’ Initiative itself is very open – anyone who decides to join later will have the same rights as the founding members. We welcome anyone who is willing to make a constructive contribution – and there are companies already which will attend the next meeting of The Founders Initiative and become active members.
Thomas Bliem: We wanted to be fast and were looking for a new way of pushing this long overdue modernization forward via an open, future-proof platform within a group of equal partners. Everyone wanted quick results, and our ‘viral’ approach enabled us to achieve this. But this does not preclude any future participation by the IPC. Once the foundation has been set for the new standard, the IPC may play a role in its further development.
Thomas Bliem: „The Hermes Standard“ focuses on board flow management and communication between machines/equipment only. The contents of the latest approach titled “IPC Data Connect Factory” are still in elaboration and ASM is playing an active role there as well. As far it is defined up to now the intention is to standardize the connection between machines and host systems. Things like traceability, process data monitoring, etc. can be optimized via such connections, but the focus is entirely different from The Hermes standard.
Thomas Bliem: We will publish version 1.0 of „The Hermes Standard“ in the coming weeks, which is a great success and a significant step forward for our industry. At the same time, the members are already making good progress evaluating ideas for additional functions and expansions. I am sure that the upcoming SMT Hybrid Packaging exhibition will provide a good opportunity for further discussions between the members. Maybe we can also add a few more companies to the consortium. The first solutions are scheduled to be rolled out at this year’s Productronica. That’s when electronics manufacturers can actually see how greatly the new M2M standard will benefit process integration activities on SMT lines.