30/04/2017

The Hermes Standard 1.0 is released for SMT

A new TCP based communication protocol has been agreed by a number of key vendors of manufacturing equipment found within a typical surface mount technology (SMT) production line.

The communication protocol intends to replace the existing SMEMA standard which is based on simple Highs and Lows of I/O lines to communicate when boards can be sent to the next manufacturing machine in a production line.

Being a replacement, The Hermes Standard (messenger of the gods in Greek religion) adopts the same topology as SMEMA, that being a daisy chain, or line. This has sparked some debate on LinkedIn whether you can really describe this as a Industry 4.0 standard, but being fair to the standard, the documents and associated press has made it clear that this is intended for Machine to Machine (M2M) use and so it is out of the scope to push data to higher level Industry 4.0 smart systems.

The press release emphasises, by listing, the contribution of many equipment vendors to give the standard weight but singles out Florian Ritter of the ASYS Group. This is because ASYS Group and ASM Assembly Systems who would normally be competitors in some market segments, are the instigators of the standard and hopefully that should signal to the industry to take note.

The style of this standard release is in true alignment of how big heavyweight hardware companies try move forward in often stagnant industries. Get everyone in a room, sign on the dotted line and have a trade show as a milepost of progress.

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What equipment suppliers need to take away from this publication, or should I say their software solutions engineers at the coalface, is more the spirit of the standard. That is to take the standard and extend it so it's not purely Hermes. For example it states XML will be used, so instead give the option to use the lightweight JSON data format.

The ISO model, created many moons ago to form data network standards, is intended to guide the development of standards within the different layers of the model.

The Hermes Standard states that TCP should be used, at Transport Layer 4, and XML should be used to wrap the data, found at Presentation Layer 6. Standards shouldn't really cross the borders of Layers which is why Hermes would be best described as a communication protocol rather than a standard in the true sense.

After the standard was published we tried to become part of the Hermes Standard consortium however our request was denied as we aren't an equipment manufacturer. Creating standards within conservative industries can be like herding cats so their rationale is wise to keep the consortium small for now. The standard is fully public and available royalty free from its website so that is a good step forward in allowing software vendors like ourselves to implement the standard.

About 4IR.UK

4IR.UK is a Industry 4.0 solutions provider for the smart industrial manufacturing sector. It develops bespoke Extensions for the MultiPlug Fog Computing Platform that allows for realtime configuration of production line equipment. The flexibility of off-the-shelf software combined with inside industrial experience means that 4IR.UK is ideally placed to anticipate and respond to a factory's changing needs.

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David Graham

David is the Chief Technology Officer at 4IR.UK