CHICAGO — Eight years after an abortive attempt, plastics leaders again are trying to create a common U.S.-European computer protocol — and they were optimistic after a meeting at NPE 1997.
The 12-member SPI/Euromap Communication Committee met June 18 during NPE in Chicago to discuss the next step, linking protocols from both continents through a remote file network.
Agreement on a common protocol would allow different brands of machines to become more interchangeable by standardizing data transfer between machines, controllers and other computers.
The NPE meeting involved officials from the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. and Euromap, the European plastics and rubber machinery association based in Frankfurt, Germany. Participants predicted collaboration on more issues, perhaps on U.S.-European machinery safety standards.
The protocol ``is really the first cooperative undertaking of any kind between SPI and Euromap,'' said Walt Bishop, staff director in charge of SPI's Machinery Division.
Joachim VettkÃ¶tter, secretary of Euromap's technical commission, said the cooperation level is high.
``It's an excellent working atmosphere,'' he said.
SPI leaders had been similarly optimistic in 1989 after a meeting at K'89 in Germany. But they saw their hopes for a single, global protocol dashed when a few German equipment makers blocked a deal. Euromap proceeded with its own set of protocols.
Working on its own, SPI introduced its Communication Protocol I, which links electronic communication between primary machines and pieces of auxiliary equipment. SPI followed with Protocol II, a plantwide system to connect injection molding machines with a host computer.
After Protocol II was completed, SPI and Euromap started talking again. The first SPI/Euromap Communication Committee was held in Washington in October.
Driving the talks is the next SPI effort, Protocol III, which would link host computers globally — so factories could exchange files through a single protocol.
Protocol III would be able to link SPI and Euromap protocols, so a plant in Dusseldorf, Germany, could talk to one in Detroit. It also would run supervisory software, perform statistical process control and handle machine scheduling, said Thomas Richards, chairman of the SPI Committee on Communication Protocols.
Richards is manager of software development at injection press maker Van Dorn Demag Corp. of Strongsville, Ohio.
SPI's Bishop said Protocol III is about 80 percent completed.
VettkÃ¶tter said he hopes the talks can be a springboard for discussions of common machinery safety standards between Europe and the United States.