Unique Plug and Play Deployment in Mechanical and Plant Engineering

Frankfurt am Main, Germany – The (Open Platform Communications) OPC UA (Unified Architecture) Specification for Machinery represents the first step towards achieving overall harmonization of the numerous established activities in the field of mechanical and plant engineering. This specification, listed as VDMA standard sheet 40001-1 and issued by the OPC Foundation (an industrial interoperability standard), is the first to be developed on a joint and cross-sector basis by working groups from different technologies and industries.

The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology - Germany (BMWi) has recognized the importance of these harmonization activities and is supported within the framework of the II4IP (Interoperable Interfaces for Intelligent Production; Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy BMWi project) project. This promotes the development and dissemination of cross-industry OPC UA standards. There are also plans for extensive knowledge transfer to increase interoperability within production. The project results thus form a key component of Industry 4.0, both at the national and international level. In the VDMA (representative of German and European companies in the mechanical and plant engineering sector) alone, around 35 working groups are working on this.

Part 1 of OPC UA Specification for Machinery contains basic modules for the machine interface which are important for the whole machine and plant engineering sector. These basic modules can be used individually if necessary, with each of them representing one or more use cases. It contains machine identification as a use case, including information on the manufacturer, serial number and type designation. The whole thing started with the comparison of a number of specifications that had already been published and were now being processed. Which allowed Part 1 to be completed relatively faster and the first version of the OPC UA for Machine Tools was simultaneously released on September 25, 2020 under number 40501-1.

This also means that the machine tools at the core of industrial production now have their own OPC UA standard. In addition, this provides standardized information for status monitoring, such as operating status, machined workpieces, tools used, and information for calculating KPIs. The VDW (German Machine Tool Builders' Association) led working group was also involved in shaping the OPC UA for Machinery. Based on the modular concept that distinguishes OPC UA as a communication standard, OPC UA for Machine Tools is the first specification that fully references the OPC UA for Machinery guidelines for the purpose of machine identification.

The publication of the two standards was only the first step, their functionality has also been thoroughly tested and proven by being integrated into real machines, made possible using the umati demonstrator. umati (universal machine technology interface) serves as a user community for the dissemination and establishment of OPC UA standards up to and including real plug and play implementation in mechanical and plant engineering. Since April 2020, the initiative has been jointly supported by the VDMA and VDW. To communicate and highlight the added value offered by open data interfaces to users, a special environment has been created for trade fair demonstrations. This includes the umati data hub as an infrastructure for connecting machines, and a front-end or dashboard, the umati app.

The OPC UA for Machine Tools was thoroughly tested before release at two 'plug-fests'. To establish OPC UA as the global production language and umati as a community for its application, there are still many aspects that need to be standardized and refined. However, it is important to keep a close eye on the far-reaching interoperability requirements throughout production to achieve advances in harmonization.

"After many years of OPC UA standardization work, the publication of OPC UA for Machinery brings us an important step closer to our goal of creating a 'global production language'," says Hartmut Rauen (left), Deputy Executive Director of the VDMA.

To this, Wilfried Schäfer, Executive Director, VDW, added, "Simultaneously, the VDW has also published the OPC UA Specification for Machine Tools. This is the first mechanical engineering specification ever to fully integrate the Specification for Machinery and thus impressively offers the benefits of this joint project to machine manufacturers and customers alike."

Explaining the benefits of Part 1, Andreas Faath, VDMA Project Manager - OPC UA interoperability and II4IP, said, "Customers typically have different types of equipment in their production department, such as robots, injection moulding machines, machine tools, packaging machines etc. That's why it's important for information such as machine identification or status to be represented and issued in the same way by all machines."

Asserting about the procedure of the modular concept, Götz Görisch, Head(working group), VDW, opined, "This will do away with any need to abuse our specification in the near future in order to integrate this further development. We can then concentrate fully on expanding the functional scope of the specification."

On testing OPC UA for Machine Tools on 'plug-fests', Alexander Broos, Project Manager (umati), VDW, explained, "This proved that the umati infrastructure offers added value beyond simple trade fair demonstrations and that we can now also make it available to our partners for development and testing."

A brand new immersive avatar-based online event format for OPC UA Companion Specifications, including development, content and usage scenarios, will be launched on November 10, 2020.

Image Source: VDW

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