Strong future prospects: the OPC UA communications and engineering approach
The next level of standardized and manufacturer-independent data exchange: VDMA R+A presents its future-oriented approach with the OPC UA Demonstrator. It offers enhanced connectivity, runs on any operating system, can be integrated into existing systems and ensures manufacturer-independent compatibility.
The OPC UA Demonstrator by VDMA Robotics + Automation is a highlight of automatica 2018. The demonstrator was conceived as a use case consisting of several components and controls from multiple manufacturers. It demonstrates how a uniform and semantic description of a production facility—where interoperable communication with OPC UA is available—can be modeled. Interested visitors can order fidget spinners with custom designs here, which will then be produced live and on the spot.
The goal is to create a new standard for Industry 4.0 data exchange so that all machines, systems, and installed components “speak the same language”.
The project shows:
- how different components with their associated skills and kinematic properties can be orchestrated to form a complete system
- what simple and efficient document-free engineering could look like
- how data such as condition data can be sent to all network participants
- how a components such as a gripper can be exchanged in an ongoing process
The Demonstrator’s message: skill-based engineering
All components to be integrated into a machine, e.g. gripper, feeder, robots, can be uniformly described using skills. Advantages:
Speedier programming process
The skills are orchestrated using drag and drop to form a complete process (program) according to the plug-and-produce principle—without the need for time-consuming PLC programming.
The program can easily be reused and adapted to changes.
Individual components can be exchanged for other components (even from other manufacturers) as long as they have the same skills.
Standardized data provision
Condition data transmission is standardized via OPC UA.
Better understanding of the process
The machine process becomes more transparent and comprehensible for everyone involved so that system errors can be detected more quickly.
Significant cost savings
Time to market and payroll costs are reduced.
The selection of an automation solution can be derived from the choice of hardware, hence requiring less in-depth technical knowledge.
What we can learn from the project:
- The European robotics + automation industry has a great interest in a common Industry 4.0 standard.
- The OPC UA approach is compatible with conventional controls, facilitating system integration.
- Products of different manufacturers with the same skills are compatible, i.e. they can be exchanged without changing the program.
- Only the manufacturers are in a position to advance standardization.