OPC UA Enabling Plug & Produce - Report from OPC Day Finland 2019
OPC Day Finland 2019 was again a successful event, which brought together best OPC UA experts in the world to present and discuss the status and possibilities enabled by this great technology.
You can find all presentation videos and slides from the event home page at the Finnish Society of Automation.
The event was organized in relation to the Teknologia trade show, which enabled visitors to combine it with a visit to the exhibition, where all major automation companies presented their products.
Pre-Conference, Current Technology and Future Visions
For the first time, we were also able to arrange a Pre-Conference, in which we presented basics of OPC UA. The Pre-Conference was arranged on a stage at the trade show area for all visitors of Teknologia.
The actual OPC Day seminar happened in two days: the first one concentrating on the current technology, real world use cases and possibilities. The second day was then reserved for future enhancements, such as Time Sensitive Networks (TSN) and the new Field Level Communication (FLC) initiative.
Stefan Hoppe, the president of OPC Foundation attended again after an absence of a couple of years and gave flashing key notes both at the pre-conference and the actual conference. Wolfgang Mahnke, one of the main architects of the technology paid a long awaited revisit to the event as well, as he has rejoined OPC Foundation and is now leading the Harmonization Working Group. Wolfgang did an excellent introduction to the technology and information modeling concepts - and also introduced the latest achievements during the second day.
Also for the first time, the event was filled with expert presentations only. We included all the best presentations from OPC Day Europe 2019 and some more!
Plug & Produce
Regarding Plug & Produce, we had an honor to have Josef Trapl from Takeda introduce their initiative, which is searching for a common solution to the pharmaceutical industry. I was co-authoring the presentation and presented the first draft of the information model for batch control. The work will continue 2020 and hopefully we will be able to extend it beyond pharmaceutical industry.
Plug & Produce concept was already presented by the German Automotive industry at the OPC Day Automotive 2019. It’s main target is to reduce time and amount of manual configuration related to new production that are taken in use in new or existing production lines. By streamlining the machine interfaces, we can expect huge savings in all industries that use different machinery for the production.
Information Modeling will be the real unique selling point of OPC UA - and enabler of Plug & Produce, for example. But it is highly dependent on applications supporting these capabilities. In that regard, it was great to have Christian Hock from Siemens present the Siemens OPC UA Modeling Editor (SiOME), which enables S7 PLC programs take advantage of OPC UA information models to full extent.
VDMA has been driving and managing a lot of modeling work, which has resulted to several new and updated OPC UA Companion Specifications. Andreas Faath was giving an overview of the current status and news.
Frank Fengler from ABB presented also OPC UA for Process Automation (PA-DIM), which is especially interesting for the Finnish industry, which is traditionally big at pulp & paper sector as well as chemical industry, both being related to process industry rather than discrete manufacturing, which has been more at the core of OPC UA information modeling, so far.
Future of OPC UA - towards real-time field level communication
Although current OPC UA technology is already very mature and strong, there are new initiatives that will be at focus in future. OPC UA PubSub specification has already been published for over a year. It defines a new communication principle parallel to the traditional Client/Server model that is used by all applications of today.
PubSub over UDP enables fast publishing and subscribing to a limited set of data and is mostly suitable for controller-to-controller communication. Standard Ethernet (IEEE 802.1) is being enhanced towards deterministic capabilities through the Time Sensitive Networks (TSN) extensions. OPC UA can also take advantage over that and will enable real-time transport of critical data in production networks. To be able to take advantage of the new TSN capabilities, network administrators will need to know how to optimize its configuration. Ben Schneider from fortiss gave an interesting talk about that subject.
5G is another network technology that will revolutionalize factory automation. Simo Säynevirta from ABB was presenting the first real industrial use case implemented over 5G, which can highlight some of the new possibilities. OPC UA over 5G will enable similar determinism as TSN. But first of all it will be a huge leap in network bandwidth and connection flexibility. This is highlighted in the ABB case by “real-time” transfer of video images over the network for analysis, which then results to feedback for the operator that is assembling the product.
Although TSN is not quite ready for production, yet, a new initiative targeting even more ground-breaking improvements was started at the end of 2018. All major automation vendors are behind the new Field Level Communication (FLC) initiative, which intends to make OPC UA a new field bus in future. Peter Lutz from OPC Foundation was introducing the status of the initiative and what we can expect from that in the coming years.
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Prosys OPC is a leading provider of professional OPC software and services with over 20 years of experience in the field. OPC and OPC UA (Unified Architecture) are communications standards used especially by industrial and high-tech companies.
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