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OPC Foundation – the world library for the description of industrial things

28 January 2020

At the end of 2014, the then newly elected OPC Foundation Vice President, Stefan Hoppe, declared that OPC UA would achieve the status of a globally recognised standard of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) by 2019 at the latest. Read this summary and update on the current status from trade fair SPS 2019.

"Mission accomplished - there is no other movement that brings the industrial world together like the OPC Foundation and no other technology like OPC UA for industrial interoperability," said Stefan Hoppe, who has now been President of the OPC Foundation for one year. "We are growing worldwide and are especially pleased to welcome Foxconn as our 699th member. Within a year the OPC Foundation has grown by 104 members including Okuma, Weidmüller, Makino Milling, Alstorm, Nikon, Persistant Systems, TÜV Süd, Baumüller and L'Oréal, offering the world's largest eco-system for interoperability and the neutral ground for common standards in automation, says Hoppe. 

In the technical update Matthias Damm, CEO Ascolab, highlighted the success of the adoption of OPC UA. He said: "The technological basis of OPC UA has been stable since 2007 and is constantly being expanded with amendments to enable the rapid implementation of further requirements from the working groups. In January 2018, a new initiative was started as ‘Safety for OPC UA based on ProfiNET’ which has now been technically released as an integral part of OPC UA as ‘OPC UA Safety - Part 15’ at the SPS trade fair. ‘Safety for OPC UA based on ProfiNET’ is now based purely on client/server and will be extended with PubSub under Field Level Communications group. Further requirements of device manufacturers are firmware updates, parameters and software management, which are currently being processed in the OPC DI group.

As a successful start, Damm reported on the goals of the OPC UA Harmonization working group - where data types, features, and also interfaces – such as energy management or recipe handling for machines from different markets – will be harmonised.  

FLC initiative grows - TSN Live Demo in spring 2020
As Director of the Field Level Initiative, Peter Lutz introduced Murrelektronik and Festo as two further members of the FLC Initiative's executive committee, which now consists of 25 companies from the process and factory automation sector. Lutz reported on the great progress that has now been made, with over 240 experts from more than 40 member companies of the OPC Foundation working together to develop the basic concepts for the controller-to-controller and controller-to-device use cases. "Both conventional Ethernet on the basis of UDP as well as a direct Layer 2 mapping using Ethernet TSN are supported. This approach ensures that the solution developed can be used in a wide variety of automation devices in process and factory automation," said Lutz. The steering committee has developed a roadmap, associated application scenarios and functional and non-functional requirements. It was also announced that the first version of the specification will be available as a release candidate by April 2020 and that a first demo with prototypes from various manufacturers will be shown at the Hanover Fair.

Companion Standards: world language of production!
In his status report, Andreas Faath, from VDMA said: "A total of 41 groups in the VDMA have been sensitised to the definition of the world language of production based on OPC UA": With published companion specifications for markets such as robotics and machine vision (both represented with live demo at the OPC booth) but also machine tools and plastics machines, another 18 groups are actively involved in defining the description of data and interfaces for machines. "A huge wave of OPC UA Companion Standards!" Hoppe praised the VDMA and emphasised the importance of international dissemination using the example of universal machine tool interface (umati) where 70 companies from 10 countries connected 110 machines to a dashboard in September. 

The closer cooperation between eCl@ss and the OPC Foundation was sealed with a Memorandum of Understanding: "The OPC UA technology allows the use of external dictionaries, such as eCl@ss - we are pleased to have implemented the concrete requirements of VDMA working groups here," said Hoppe.

Kitchen 4.0 with OPC UA
"OPC UA is seen by many people as a pure standard for factory automation through the Industrie4.0 initiative," said Hoppe. He went on to list activities from the process industry and announced the desire for closer and direct contacts with end user associations such as NAMUR in 2020. An exotic product, Holger Burgtorf from Küppersbusch presented the world's first deep fat fryer with OPC UA connection: The associated umbrella association, HKI for industrial kitchen equipment, decided in favour of OPC UA in 2016 following a study on IoT solutions and published a total of 14 standardised appliance types at the end of 2018. "In 2019 Küppersbusch was a pioneer in equipping 50 different types of appliances in over 200 different variants with the OPC UA communication interface," said Burgtorf.

IT companies support OPC UA
For Microsoft, Erich Barnstedt presented the activities of the Open Manufacturing Platform (OMP) founded by Microsoft and BMW. "The goal of OMP is to support manufacturers and suppliers along the entire value chain in accelerating the development of industrial IoT applications. The focus is on providing an open data model and open source components integrated with OPC UA. This will enable companies to bring their solutions to market faster while maintaining control over their data and intellectual property," said Barnstedt. He also pointed out the deep Azure integration with OPC UA and explained the positive response with the flexibility of the Microsoft platform: "With Azure we deliver the desired openness and integration with international standards such as OPC UA".

Confidently, President Hoppe concluded the press conference: "Five years ago, some may not have believed our prediction for five years – but we don't announce anything in full without knowing that we can deliver.” For the future, he positioned the OPC Foundation as a ‘world library of descriptions of industrial things’ which is openly available on the Internet also for non-OPC members as the time of the closed Eco-System is increasingly over. As a further step towards harmonisation he announced an international workshop conference for asset management on 30/31 January in Frankfurt.


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