In the smart factory of the future, machines must speak the same language. The decisive factor here is the standardization of communication interfaces. (Picture: VDMA)

VDMA releases OPC UA Companion for Robotics and Machine Vision

In the smart factory of the future, machines must speak the same language.

At their press conference held at automatica 2018, the OPC UA machine vision and robotics working groups released the first versions of their companion specifications. “Interoperability is the key for distinguishing our products in a connected world of Industrie 4.0. OPC UA is the designated standard to make machines talk the same language in the smart factory of the future. With the release of the companion specifications, we have reached a major milestone on this way”, Dr. Horst Heinol-Heikkinen, Chairman of the VDMA OPC Vision Initiative concluded.

“The VDMA (Germany's association for the mechanical engineering industry) recognized the potential of OPC UA at an early stage and promoted the standardization of data and interfaces of devices and machines in its sectors in an exemplary and consistent manner with its members”, Stefan Hoppe, Global Vice President of the OPC Foundation, added.

Stefan Hoppe
Stefan Hoppe
Global Vice President
Verl, Germany
Thomas J. Burke
Thomas J. Burke
President & Executive Director
Ravenna, Ohio, USA

Robots describing themselves

The OPC UA Companion Specification for Robotics (in short OPC UA Robotics) provides a standardized information model which is capable of presenting all robot related data regardless of manufacturer or location in a uniform manner. Part 1 released today as draft version permits asset management, condition monitoring, preventive maintenance and vertical integration – at any time, anywhere in the world and independent of the robot brand or type. It provides the ideal basis for data analytics and for boosting OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness).

Simplified Machine Vision integration

The OPC UA Companion Specification for Machine Vision (in short OPC UA Vision) provides a generic model for all machine vision systems - from simple vision sensors to complex inspection systems. Put simply, it defines the essence of a machine vision system. Part 1 published today as release candidate version describes the infrastructure layer which is an abstraction of the generic machine vision system.

It allows the control of a machine vision system in a generalized way, abstracting the necessary behavior via a state machine concept. It handles the management of recipes, configurations and results in a standardized way, whereas the contents stay vendor-specific and are treated as black boxes.

Skill-based control for increased adaptability

Beside the release of the two new companion specifications, a demonstrator for skill-based control with OPC UA was presented for the first time today. The demonstrator is a fully-fledged assembly cell producing fidget spinners and integrating systems and components from over 20 manufactures speaking one language: OPC UA.

Robotics condition monitoring dashboard demonstrates vendor-independence

A further use case presented at automatica demonstrates the OPC UA Companion Specification for Robotics in action. Major robot manufacturers show how condition monitoring can be implemented independently of manufacturer and robot type in the cloud. All relevant status data are clearly visible on a dashboard. Applications of this demonstrator are asset management, condition monitoring, preventive maintenance and vertical integration.

First testbed for OPC UA Companion Specification validation

VDMA is co-founder of the pre-competitive and non-profit association Labs Network Industry 4.0 (LNI) that neutrally operates testbeds and use cases focusing on SME requirements and standardization validation. The University of Applied Sciences Ravensburg-Weingarten, Germany, plans to host in their lab the first testbed together with industry partners. "The practical validation by users, including SMEs, is a key to success for the international standardization activities to follow", Dr. Christian Mosch from VDMA Forum Industrie 4.0 emphasizes. The testbed is open to new partners without obstacles.

OPC UA Companion Specifications now available

The OPC UA Vision companion specification is now available free of charge as VDMA Specification number 40100 (as release candidate version). The OPC UA Robotics companion specification is now available free of charge as VDMA Specification number 40010 (as draft version). Both specifications can be requested at opcua@vdma.org.

„The VDMA OPC UA initiatives offer us the opportunity to describe mechatronic systems using standardized capabilities ("skills"). This "common language for mechatronic systems" will make the planning and design of the systems fundamentally more efficient and less error-prone.

OPC UA will play an important role in the implementation of communication. The demonstrator presented at automatica 2018 shows the feasibility of such technologies in the I4.0 approach and the very good spirit of cooperation of all partners in the definition and implementation of these ideas.” - Friedrich Durand, Afag GmbH, CTO


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