Communication based on OPC UA
OPC UA is an open interface standard that defines the mechanisms of cooperation in the industrial environment. The VDMA prioritizes its activities on this interface standard and gives an important orientation to the machine and plant engineering sector. The VDMA guideline “Industrie 4.0 Communication Guideline based on OPC UA” shows action steps that help to implement Industrie 4.0 communication in the company.
Companies from the machine and plant building industry and operators are currently confronted with abstract concepts about Industrie 4.0. These concepts promise high efficiency and flexibility but lack concrete recommendations for action. Today, companies use a variety of industrial communication solutions with the associated effort for integration. Why do companies need additional Industrie 4.0 communication?
Industrie 4.0 communication is not an abstract future concept. It already exists with OPC UA.
Industrie 4.0 communication does not refer to yet another industrial communication solution for real-time process and control data. It complements the existing solutions and is based on fundamental new concepts, such as service-oriented architecture (SOA) and information models for the description of devices and their capabilities. SOA allows components, machines, and systems to be more flexible because they are not configured and programmed for a specific production task, but rather offer their capabilities as services. Component services can be orchestrated into more abstract machine and equipment services.
Industrie 4.0 communication simplifies the integration of components, machines and plants and enables increases in efficiency based on simple connections to condition monitoring and optimization systems. These connections do not depend on existing fieldbus or real-time communication systems. In addition, the use case plug & work allows for a more flexible commissioning and retrofitting of machines, plants and factories. This feature saves time and costs.
The open standard Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture (OPC UA) is specified in IEC 62541 and fulfills all requirements to Industrie 4.0 communication. OPC UA becomes increasingly established in the machine and plant building industry.
Industrie 4.0 communication based on OPC UA can be implemented step by step
First Migration Step
Industrie 4.0 communication based on OPC UA can be implemented step by step. Basic prerequisite for Industrie 4.0 communication based on OPC UA is a network based on the Internet Protocol (IP). If an IP based network exists, OPC UA can be used as a uniform interface to access information from machines from different manufacturers. For example, condition monitoring systems can access information from machines via Industrie 4.0 communication. In a first step, relevant parameters for machine or system monitoring are manually integrated into the condition monitoring system. This approach is already beneficial compared to today’s integration via many different communication solutions.
Second Migration Step
In a next migration step, the use case plug & work is made possible by using standardized information models, so called Companion Specifications for OPC UA. The core functionality of machines and plants from different vendors is modeled equally to enable identical integration and usage of these machines. More and more operators request this interoperability, for example from plastic and rubber machines and devices for automatic identification via RFID.
Third Migration Step
In a third migration step, an extended information model can contain functionality that should not be standardized. This way, also in Industrie 4.0 machines and systems will differ in terms
of performance and efficiency. It is not intended to standardize all aspects of machines and systems. Expertise of machine and plant builders, e.g. functions for the optimization of their machines, can be granularly protected by role-based authorization in OPC UA.
Fitting Boundary Conditions
The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) confirms that Industrie 4.0 communication can be implemented in a secure way using OPC UA.
Some component manufacturers, machine and plant builders have already moved towards Industrie 4.0 communication. A first result is the Companion Specification EUROMAP77, which includes a uniform information model for plastic and rubber machines. EUROMAP77 can be used to especially support smaller companies in understanding the benefits of information models. Also, EUROMAP77 is a suitable example for the explanation of steps required for the development of a Companion Specification.
Of course, Industrie 4.0 communication based on OPC UA fits into the Reference Architecture Model for Industrie 4.0 (RAMI4.0) from the German organization Plattform Industrie 4.0 (http://www.plattform-i40.de). Industrie 4.0 communication based on OPC UA is not only found on the communication layer, but also on the information layer where OPC UA’s information models are located.
Industrie 4.0 communication is not an abstract future concept. It already exists with OPC UA. Machine and plant building industries must face the future challenges coming more and more from the IT and software business. Terms such as IP-based network, information model, and SOA will belong in machine and plant builders’ vocabulary in the future.
VDMA guideline “Industrie 4.0 Communication Guideline Based on OPC UA”
The VDMA guideline “Industrie 4.0 Communication Guideline Based on OPC UA” should be understood as a practice-oriented tool. It shows action steps that help to implement the Industrie 4.0 communication in the company.
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