OPC UA for Machine Tools integrates inventory systems 

August 2022

A new version of the OPC UA for Machine Tools Companion Specification has recently been released. The Joint Working Group of the OPC Foundation is supported by the VDW and has produced a supplement that now makes it possible to integrate existing inventory systems. The collection of important operating data and KPIs gives rise to further advantages. Dr. Wilfried Schäfer, Executive Director of the VDW, is pleased with the progress: "The update of the specification for machine tools sees us pass a further important milestone. This will make the use of the Companion Specifications even more attractive in the future and ensure greater acceptance among industry clients. We hope to be able to provide demonstrations at the upcoming trade fairs. Our umati connectivity initiative showcases the open data exchange in a tangible form and naturally plays an important role in this."

Numerous OPC UA Companion Specifications for machine and plant engineering are currently being developed at great pace. They enable open interface standards based on OPC UA to be used between machines, devices and software and are being developed into a global production language under the leadership of the VDMA. Just under 50 such specifications have already been published or are currently under development. However, before the exchange of data via existing interfaces or systems can be translated into new, open standards, it is becoming clear, however, that future-proof technologies such as OPC UA must first be broadly established on the market. This applies in particular to shop floor and machine data collection (SFDC and MDC), which are well established in the automotive industry. In most cases, however, customers apply their own in-house standards, which is an obstacle to widespread standardization. 

Dr. Wilfried Schäfer, Executive Director of the VDW

Widespread standardization based on established systems
The new extension of the OPC UA for Machine Tools Companion Specification addresses this dilemma. The first version concentrated on the global monitoring of machine tool status, whereas the focus of the next step, version 1.01.1, is on collecting important operating data and key performance indicators (KPIs). The update is available now from the umati website:

The large number of company representatives involved in the process made it possible to incorporate their experience with all the different SFDC/MDC systems used by customers. Finally, almost all parameters that are currently used in these systems are included in the KPI extension. This makes it possible to use shop floor data in an OPC UA ecosystem through simple mapping or, during a transitional phase, also vice versa. Current initiatives such as the "Catena-X" automotive network are clearly pointing the way toward integrative, platform-based ecosystems that will replace proprietary installations in the medium term.

Now that this milestone has been reached, Dr. Alexander Broos, Head of Research and Technology at the VDW, already has his sights firmly set on the next steps: "We plan to upgrade our umati demonstrator to include “pub/sub” (publish/subscribe) technology in the fourth quarter of 2022. This further simplifies the connection of machines and software by a significant degree yet also considerably increases the added value of the interfaces for cloud devices." Other upcoming developments include energy monitoring, job management and machine tending. All three are currently being developed by the OPC UA for Machinery working group in conjunction with the VDMA as part of the harmonization efforts. In addition, an independent working group for additive manufacturing is to be established in the coming months. A new subgroup of the existing machine tool group has also been set up for forming technology.

Anyone wishing to view for themselves the benefits of a common world language of production for machine tool manufacturing and its customers, can do so at a series of international trade fairs starting in September. umati will have its own stand and be inviting visitors to live demonstrations and "Meet the Experts" meetings at IMTS in Chicago (Sept. 12-17, 2022, West Hall (Lakeside), Level 3), at AMB in Stuttgart, Sept. 13-17, 2022 (Hall 10, Stand 10A75) and at Jimtof in Tokyo (Nov. 8-13, 2022, umati stand in East Hall 8, Stand E8016). Under the direction of the VDMA, umati will also be present at other trade fairs. 

Technically speaking, the new version is a complementary facet of the OPC UA for Machine Tools (UA4MT) specification. A facet is a group of predefined parameters for a specific application. In the UA4MT, the KPI monitoring facet extends the basic profile to include parameters for

• Machinery state

• Machine operation state

• Errors and alerts

• Necessary machine operator interventions

• Efficiency parameters (parts produced in lifetime, finished parts counter, good parts counter)

• Maintenance status of machine (service, inspections, repairs, up-grades)

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