Capital Equipment Exchange strives to stay on top of the latest developments in the used SMT equipment industry and pass that knowledge on to you, including standards protocols like SMEMA and HERMES. The world of surface mount technology and printed circuit board assembly hasn’t seen much innovation in its standards for machine-to-machine (M2M) communication until recently.

That’s why we’ve created this helpful guide to understanding the SMEMA Standard Protocol vs. the Hermes Standard Protocol and what that means for your production line.

The SMEMA Standard Protocol

SMEMA stands for Surface Mount Equipment Manufacturers Association. It’s a non-profit made through the collaboration of a group of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). They developed a standard protocol to interface more effectively between the different surface mount technology machines in the line.

Using a series of cables connected to the various SMT equipment points, including PCB conveyors, the SMEMA protocol allows the machines to communicate status updates for the boards at each stage of production.

  • Development began in 1984, but nothing was formalized until 1987.
  • SMEMA improved machine-to-machine (M2M) communication.
  • The protocol was last updated in 2007, version IPC/SMEMA 9851-2007.
  • It’s still a good option for large batch runs and simple board assembly production lines.

Innovation Of The Past

The SMEMA standard was innovative for its time, but current technology and communication methods have far surpassed its capabilities. The protocol does not work well for highly technical or small batch runs, and does not exchange PCB data efficiently between machines.

While it was the standard protocol for decades, that is not the case anymore. There are several problems with the SMEMA protocol that have been addressed and corrected with Hermes.

  • Missed signals in the line cause assembly errors.
  • Uses a series of plug pin cables and sockets, all of which are outdated methods of transfer.
  • Hardware and installation are more challenging, and parts are harder to source.
  • Any changes in the production line require new cabling to be installed.
  • There are problems with data transfer and timing among different machine vendors.

The Hermes Standard Protocol

The Hermes Standard Protocol improves M2M communication using Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet Protocol (IP) networking. Hermes is now considered the global standard board flow management protocol.

It was created through the collaborative efforts of 17 different manufacturers - ASM, Asys, CyberOptics, Ersa, KIC, Koh Young, Mirtec, Myconic, Nutek, Omron, Parmi, Rehm, Saki, SMT, Viscom, Yamaha, and YJ Link. It was formally published as IPC-HERMES-9852 in 2017.

Flexibility, Speed & Precision

Hermes works so well, in part, because it uses the technology of the current age, with materials that are easy to find and use, making it simple to adapt to any PCB production line. Hermes can transmit more data and do it better.

For example, it can transmit barcodes, board IDs, and dimensions. The Hermes Standard Protocol is continuously adapted in an “open source” methodology, and there are plans to expand its capabilities over time.

  • One standard ethernet cable is all that’s needed.
  • Parts are affordable and easy to source.
  • Errors can be easily defined.
  • Easily expandable for future production.
  • Identifies more errors and can send data in any direction.

SMEMA Or Hermes? You Decide

When it comes to PCB board flow management and communication, we think Hermes is the clear winner. However, your production and needs may still be suitable for the SMEMA standard. No matter which method you use, we have the experience and equipment you need for every step of the printed circuit board assembly process, from used pick and place machines to wave solder equipment and reflow ovens.

Please browse our inventory of used SMT equipment or contact us today to get more information about the processes and equipment that are right for you.