After nearly a decade of work, a common U.S.-European computer protocol for injection molding machines is just around the corner.
During K'98 in Dusseldorf, Germany, officials of Euromap and the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc. put the finishing touches on something called the SPI/ Euromap Data Exchange Interface. It links injection molding machines to a central computer.
A main advantage is that the system works through a remote file network that can run on standard office and factory software, including the Ethernet protocol, according to Tom Richards, chairman of the SPI Committee on Communication Protocols. The committee is part of SPI's Machinery Division.
``This uses a remote file system to have the machine read command files or job files,'' Richards said. The files tell the machine what to do.
Both SPI and Euromap hope to publish Data Exchange Interface next early year, said Joachim Vettkotter, secretary of the Technical Commission at Euromap, a trade group representing European plastics and rubber machinery makers.
A protocol is the term for how computers and machine controllers communicate electronically. Coming up with a single, standard protocol would simplify machine-buying decisions dramatically worldwide. A customer could look solely at price and performance, instead of worrying about how that piece of machinery communicates with other equipment and a host computer.
About 10 years ago, Euromap and SPI began discussing a standard protocol for machinery on both continents, but those talks broke down after the K show in 1989, when a few German equipment makers blocked a proposed agreement.
Both trade associations — SPI in Washington and Euromap in Frankfurt, Germany — went to work on separate protocols.
Richards said the new Data Exchange Interface is independent from those existing protocols — the SPI Communication Protocols and Euromap 15 and 45 — but it will work with them.
``You could have a bridge software program to connect the old protocols to the new protocols,'' he said.
The older protocols defined very basic areas, even specifying the wiring configuration. Today, standardization of office and factory networks makes the job much easier, Richards said.
Richards is manager of electrical and controls development at press maker Van Dorn Demag Corp. in Strongsville, Ohio.
SPI and Euromap announced the agreement Oct. 27 during the K show. The two trade associations will work together to extend the standard to extruders and other types of equipment.
Vettkotter said Asian injection press makers were not involved in the talks. That means the Data Exchange Interface still is not a truly ``global protocol,'' but Vettkotter feels confident it will be adopted by machinery makers outside of North American and Europe.
``There's no doubt about it,'' he said. ``The application is open to worldwide usage.''