Milestones for plug and play in mechanical and plant engineering

Shutterstock

OPC UA for Machinery and OPC UA for Machine Tools released - umati community tests functionality of both specifications in umati demonstrator

"With the publication of OPC UA for Machinery, after many years of standardization work in the field of OPC UA, we have taken an important step towards our goal of a 'world language of production'", says Hartmut Rauen, Deputy Managing Director of the VDMA.

This specification, which is listed under the number 40001-1 as VDMA standard sheet and at the OPC Foundation, is the first specification to be developed jointly and comprehensively between working groups of different technologies and industries. Dr. Wilfried Schäfer, Managing Director of the VDW, adds: "The VDW has succeeded in publishing the OPC UA Specification for Machine Tools at the same time. It is the first specification in mechanical engineering ever to fully integrate the Specification for Machinery and thus impressively demonstrates the benefits of this joint activity for machine manufacturers and customers."

In the OPC UA Specification for Machinery - Part 1, basic building blocks for the machine interface are provided which are important for the entire machine and plant construction. These basic modules can be used individually as required and each of them represents one or more use cases.

Part 1 contains the machine identification as use cases, including information about the manufacturer, serial number and type designation. Andreas Faath, VDMA project manager for OPC UA interoperability and II4IP (Interoperable Interfaces for Intelligent Production; project in the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy BMWi), explains the benefits: "A customer typically has different systems in his production, such as robots, injection molding machines, machine tools, packaging systems or any other type of machine. Therefore, information such as machine identification or status should be displayed and output in the same way for all machines."

The starting point was a comparison of several specifications that had already been published and were currently being developed. Therefore Part 1 could be completed quite quickly. Since September 25, 2020, the specification is now available for free download here
.

"With the publication of the OPC UA for Machinery we have taken an important step towards our goal of a 'world language of production' after many years of standardization work in the area of OPC UA".

Federal Ministry of Economics promotes VDMA as a center of OPC UA standard development
The OPC UA Specification for Machinery is the first step towards a comprehensive harmonization of the numerous activities that have been established in the field of mechanical and plant engineering. In the VDMA alone, around 35 working groups are concerned with this. "This bottom-up approach is essential due to the high degree of specialization of our sub-sectors," explains Faath. "However, this makes it all the more important to coordinate and harmonize all this work in order to identify synergies at an early stage."

The importance of these harmonization activities has been recognized by the BMWi and is supported within the framework of the II4IP project. It promotes the development
of cross-industry OPC UA standards and their publication. In addition, comprehensive knowledge transfer activities are planned to increase
interoperability in production. In this way, the project results will form a central component of Industry 4.0, both in the national and international environment.
"With OPC UA as the world language of production, we in the VDMA, together with our members and interested parties from all over the world, are able to raise interoperable communication in production to a new level," emphasizes Faath.

Products based on OPC UA for Machine Tools are now possible
At the same time, the first version of
OPC UA for Machine Tools was released on September 25 this year under the number 40501-1 (download here )

"It is an important milestone for the machine tool industry. We have thus met the deadline that we set ourselves at EMO Hannover 2019 and are now giving our members the opportunity to launch products whose communication is based on OPC UA as an open interface," says Wilfried Schäfer. This means that machine tools, which form the core of industrial manufacturing, now also have their own OPC UA standard.

It initially maps standardized information for status monitoring, such as operating status, machined workpieces, tools used or information for calculating KPI key figures. The working group under the direction of VDW was also involved in the design of the OPC UA for Machinery.

"It was therefore an obvious step to synchronize the publication of the two specifications," explains Götz Görisch, head of the working group at VDW. In line with the modular concept that distinguishes OPC UA as a communication standard, the OPC UA for Machine Tools is the first specification that fully references the specifications of the OPC UA for Machinery to map machine identification.

"This means that we won't have to attack our specification in the near future in order to integrate this further development and can concentrate fully on expanding the functional scope of the specification," Görisch explains the approach.

Proof of functionality provided by umati demonstrator
But the two standards mentioned are not only published. Their functionality has also been extensively tested and proven by integration into real machines. The umati demonstrator makes this possible.
umati (universal machine technology interface) serves as a user community for the distribution and establishment of OPC UA standards up to real plug and play in mechanical and plant engineering. Since April 2020, the initiative is jointly supported by VDMA and VDW. In order to communicate the added value of the open data interfaces in a simple way and to make it perceptible to users, an environment was first created for trade fair demonstrations which consists of the umati data hub as an infrastructure for connecting machines and a front-end or dashboard, the umati.app.

Before the OPC UA for Machine Tools was released, it was thoroughly tested in two so-called plugfests. "With this we have proven that our infrastructure built up in umati offers an added value beyond the pure trade fair demonstration, which we can now also make available to our partners for development and testing", explains Dr. Alexander Broos, VDW project manager for umati.

ExperienceOPC UAand umati - Continuing at a high pace
"These milestones do not mean, however, that we can sit back", Hartmut Rauen and Wilfried Schäfer agree. Too many topics still need to be standardized and worked on to establish OPC UA as the world language of production and umati as a community for its application.
In order to advance harmonization, the far-reaching requirements for interoperability must be kept in mind throughout production.
"Experience from expert discussions shows that company and customer interests are very diverse, even within a single industry," says Faath, explaining the necessity of a planned VDMA study, the results of which are intended to sharpen both the VDMA strategy and the work in the working groups. Participation in the study will be available to the general public from November 1 on at www.opcua.vdma.org.

On November 10, 2020, the VDMA will implement a novel, avatar-based
immersive online event format for OPC UA Companion Specifications, their development, content and usage scenarios.
In several slots, experts will present the OPC UA standards for mechanical engineering and various sub-sectors. At the same time, open questions can be discussed and there will be opportunities for networking. Register here.

It is also expected that an online-based web event for umati will be worked on in November, which will soon give the participating companies the opportunity to make the connection of their machines live and tangible for customers all over the world. www.umati.org