Major automation players join OPC UA

Nov 30, 2018

Within weeks of announcing the ‘OPC UA including TSN down to field level’ initiative, leading automation suppliers have engaged with this initiative to address emerging needs of the automation users. Participants include ABB, BECKHOFF, Bosch-Rexroth, B&R, Cisco, Hilscher, Hirschmann, Huawei, Intel, Kalycito, KUKA, Mitsubishi Electric, Molex, Omron, Phoenix Contact, Pilz, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, Siemens, TTTech, Wago and Yokogawa.

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Significant progress has already been made on the initiative set-up with charters created and workgroups being incorporated into the OPC Foundation organizational structure. A steering committee has been formed and is open to all members making appropriate resource commitments. This committee will manage the technical and marketing working groups and ensure alignment with OPC Foundation Technical and Marketing Control Boards.

OPC Foundation’s approach to several of the existing fieldbus organizations for joint work within this initiative has received positive response, according to OPC. Initial technical evaluation indicates that best practices from these organizations can be combined to enable critical functions like connection management, motion and safety.

Technical work should commence within the next two months with working groups open to all OPC Foundation members. Initial work will focus on the core functionality of field device communication, developing a next generation architecture and general model for devices which can be adopted as easily as possible by automation suppliers. This architecture and general model will be expanded with device-type specific functionality by specialist working groups. Extended OPC UA standardization documents will be published including test scenarios and certification procedures to ensure that the wider community can build compliant devices.

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OPC UA shall be able to share a multi-vendor converged-network infrastructure with other applications, including the existing and updated Industrial Ethernet solutions. To achieve this goal, the TSN Profile for Industrial Automation standardized by the IEC/IEEE 60802 committee will be used and all working groups will closely align with this for TSN related specification sections.

Based on time-to-market and existing market gaps, two use cases will be prioritized for specification publication: multi-vendor controller to controller integration; vertical communication from field device to upper levels. Architectural design will ensure that these specifications can be extended in future releases to cover real-time communications for control device, motion and safety functions.

Conformance testing of devices has proved to be a valuable tool in ensuring multi-vendor interoperability in end-user deployed systems, according to the OPC Foundation, which will deliver conformance-test specifications to ensure highest-quality standards and validated interoperability before delivery to users.

Stefan Hoppe, president of the OPC Foundation, said “It is amazing how fast the automation suppliers showed their interest and willingness to contribute to this exciting project which seems to be unique in history of automation. This clearly shows that standardization is one of the key drivers for digitalization and IIoT.”

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