OPC reaches FLC initiative milestone

13 December 2021

Three years after its launch, the OPC Foundation's Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative has completed the second release candidate of the OPC UA FX (Field eXchange) specifications and has started the review and release process for them.

In addition, a multi-vendor demo with controllers and network infrastructure components of 20 companies – including some of the world’s largest automation suppliers – has been realised to showcase the cross-vendor interoperability of automation components for the most diverse use cases in Factory and Process Automation.

The release candidate of the Field Level Communications Initiative consists of four specification parts (Parts 80-83) and focuses on communication between automation components to exchange process data and configuration data using OPC UA Client/Server and PubSub extensions in combination with peer-to-peer connections and basic diagnostics. 

A multi-vendor interoperability demo was due to to shown at SPS 2021, combining components from a total of 20 manufacturers demonstrating cross-vendor data exchange via OPC UA and the extensions for the field level, OPC UA FX (Field eXchange). The focus of the interoperability demo was on horizontal communication between automation components – controller-to-controller communication. With the UAFX extensions, the controllers are able to exchange process data with other controllers using UAFX Connections and PubSub mechanisms. In the demo itself, process data is exchanged via UDP/IP using wired Ethernet or Ethernet TSN, as well as in combination with a 5G wireless connection.  

In the demo, the controllers act as UAFX Publisher and/or UAFX Subscriber, which exchange data via UAFX Connections. The controllers are configured and interconnected via so-called UAFX Connection Managers, which are either integrated into the controller or implemented as an external software component. The Connection Managers used were implemented by Siemens and Unified Automation. All controllers are monitored in real time via a central dashboard which visualizes the respective status, selected process data and other information from the UAFX asset information model of the automation components.

Participants in the demo includes ABB, Beckhoff, Bosch Rexroth, B&R, Emerson, Festo, Honeywell, Hirschmann/Belden, Huawei, Kuka, Mitsubishi, Moxa, Omron, Phoenix Contact, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, Siemens, Unified Automation, Wago and Yokogawa.

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