The Japan Robot Association (JARA) and Semiconductor Equipment and Materials International (SEMI) have been promoting the SEMI Surface Mount Technology-Equipment Link Standards (SEMI SMT-ELS). These are communication standards for the SMT assembly line. The organizations have been promoting activities targeting to make SEMI SMT-ELS an international standard. They take part in global manufacturing equipment-related exhibitions.
Mounter manufacturers have been promoting smart factory. A smart factory significantly improves productivity in the SMT assembly line of electronic circuit boards production. They adopt an Integrated Production System using internet of things (IoT) technology for this purpose.
Generally, an SMT assembly line consists of printer, mounter, reflow equipment, and inspection system, as well as transfer system that connects these various machines. However, in most cases, these machines are manufactured by different manufacturers. Each manufacturer adopts an original process to retain information on printed circuit boards (PCBs) and production information in the machines. Manufacturers also adopt original communication methods with adjacent machines. Hence, consistent information management of the entire line requires much labor and cost. This imposes a burden on users.
Communication Standard Among Various Machines
In June 2018, JARA established the SEMI SMT-ELS as the communication method among manufacturing machines or machine-to-machine (M2M) linkage. This aims to standardize communication rules among machines from different manufacturers in an SMT assembly line and construct an open connection environment. In establishing the SEMI SMT-ELS, JARA used the SEMI A1 HC SEMI standard M2M communication standard advocated by SEMI as the base.
Standardizing communication rules among various manufacturing machines installed in the SMT line enables users to easily construct a mounting system beyond the boundaries of corporations.
The SEMI SMT-ELS is provided with a transfer function to deliver products and information on them between adjacent machines as a set along the manufacturing line. It is also provided with a general-purpose communication function to exchange setting information between adjacent machines and feedback information on processing. The general-purpose communication function can be used for communication between the host and machines as well.
The standards realize the transfer of PCBs on the mounting line, changeover of production models on the entire SMT line, and delivery of inspection result information through M2M. They also simplify the construction of a mounting system, facilitate production management, and enable speedy response to variable-mix, variable-volume production.
20 Members of SEMI SMT-ELS
About 20 companies participate in the SEMI SMT-ELS. They include mounter manufacturers FUJI Corporation, Panasonic Corporation, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. and JUKI Corporation; automated optical inspection (AOI) systems manufacturers: Omron Corporation, Saki Corporation, Nagoya Electric Works Co., Ltd., and CKD Corporation; reflow/flow equipment system manufacturers: Senju Metal Industry Co., Ltd. and Tamura Corporation; and Korean AOI systems manufacturers: Koh Young Technology, Inc. and PARMI Corp.
Following the setting of standards, manufacturers have adopted communication protocols conforming to the SEMI SMT-ELS in their products. In their efforts to make it an international standard, JARA and SEMI has promoted the standards by jointly setting up SEMI SMT-ELS booth in international mounting-related exhibitions, such as NEPCON ASIA, productronica, and IPC-APEX EXPO.
In 2020 and 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic restricted these kinds of activities. However, at NEPCON JAPAN 2022 in January, exhibitors promoted the standards by placing SEMI SMT-ELS logomark to their equipment. Exhibitors at IPC APEX EXPO 2022 held in January in San Diego, the United States, including FUJI, JUKI and Yamaha Motor, also promoted SEMI SMT-ELS.