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In the 1980ís servos began to evolve into digital-based devices that soon exceeded the capabilities of the currently used +10 volt analog command signal. To circumvent these restrictions, various proprietary CNC-drive interfaces emerged. Although they each solved some of the problems, they also created new ones. Foremost was that the openness and portability of RS-431 was lost. Products were developed that depended upon not just a particular type of servo technology, but even a particular vendorís product. The situation clearly demanded a new standard.

By 1987, based upon pressures from its member companies, the VDW (German Machine Tool Builders Association -- Verein Deutscher Werkzeugmaschinenfabriken e.V.) formed a joint working group with the ZVEI (German Electrical Standards Association -- Zentralverband Elektrotechnik- und Elektroindustrie e.V.). The charter of this working group was to develop a next-generation open interface between drives and controls that included the expanded opportunities afforded by digital technology. The interface was intended to permit continued drive technology independence; meaning drive technology should have no impact on CNC technology, and vice-versa.

The original committee member companies included major names in CNCs, drives, and machine tools:

ABB                   Gildemeister
AEG                   Index
AMK                   Indramat
Baumueller         Siemens
Bosch

After over 40 man-years of combined effort, the working group published a specification for an interface scheme entitled Sercos, for SErial Real-time COmmunication System.

The parent Sercos trade association, Interests Group Sercos interface e.V. (name changed to Sercos International in 2006), was founded in 1990 in Germany, to continue development of the specification (which became an international IEC standard in 1995), disseminate information, supervise conformance testing, promote the standard and supervise trademark compliance.

The right to use the Sercos trademark is exclusively regulated by Sercos International and its use on a product depends on that product passing a conformance test administered by a test center authorized by Sercos International.

Sercos N.A. was founded in 1994 to advance the Sercos standard in North America. Sercos Japan was founded in 1998 and Sercos China was founded in 2007 for similar purposes in those countries.