Interoperability Standardization in the Industrial Automation Space

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Issue #11242 - September 2019 | Page #68
By Steve Shrader

So, there is an interesting discussion by some in the CM Industry to create a universal truss software standard. In some circles, this “standard” is merely an effort to integrate and simplify.  Others worry it is an effort to monetize design software, and to some this “standard” will be more convenient for the independent equipment vendors.

But is this a case of missing the forest for the trees? —The rest of the Manufacturing Industry is already adopting a standard. That standard is the Internet of Things (IoT).

When it comes to Component Manufacturing, several vendors are in a frenzy to build their R&D facilities and create a “standard.” For CMs who like to shop the full menu of automation equipment, communication between machines (M2M) is already available using APIs and an Ethernet network to link objects or equipment for Process Control. Inter Process Communication is an existing standard that allows the exchange of data between processes or devices and is the best foundation for digitalization standardization communication and connection. And it’s “Vendor-Neutral”!!!

Basically, it’s a server/client system that allows one application to control another application, thereby enabling data sharing without interference. (The Internet of Things) Hint: Ask your IT guy.

When “Smart” equipment is built with API communications protocol, it provides a structure for data requests using a client/server network. There is no reason existing software can’t connect to hardware, such as a Human-Machine Interface that consists of hardware and software that allow user inputs to be converted to signals for machines that, in turn, provide the required result back to the user. Human-machine interface technology has been used in different industries like electronics, entertainment, military, medical, manufacturing, etc. No paper work, no print outs, no paper reporting.

The value of application client/server protocol is that it is an open standard, which means lower costs and more options. This means equipment manufacturers need only provide a server for their devices to communicate with any client. This means software vendors need only simply include client capabilities in their products and they can become instantly compatible with any equipment, saw, projector device (European or State side). Users can choose any client software they desire, resting assured that it will communicate seamlessly with their enabled hardware, and vice-versa.

According to https://www.technologyrecord.com, in an online article, “Using the OPC Unified Architecture for manufacturing success,” they report:

“This evolution is just the start of things to come. Back in November, the OPC Foundation extended its OPC UA to include time-sensitive networking (TSN) at field level. The field level communication (FLC) working group kick-off meeting happened on 8 January 2019, welcoming 90 people from 38 companies.

OPC Foundation’s vision of being the United Nations of automation is also coming to fruition. We are bringing together an exciting mix of automation, IT companies, chip manufacturers, integrators, and end users and enabling market leaders to meet on neutral ground to discuss progress in three key areas: industrial interoperability, integrated security, and data modeling.”

Eight years ago, Hundegger decided to consolidate the multiple software formats of its multiple CNC wood construction machines into one (1) integrated operating system we call CAMBIUM®. Actually, Hundegger took this task further and joined the rest of the manufacturing world and included a “vendor-neutral” IoT process that enables digital automation on scalable, reliable, interoperable systems.

You can’t get more “Standardized.” To be able to link “things” such as mobile devices, machines, and services with a “vendor-neutral” API interface and facilitate the interaction of data and meaning is already here.

Currently, industrial groups worldwide are working on these “vendor-neutral” specifications, and on the “description of their things.” This is exactly what is needed for the goal of plug and play standardized information. Every device, every machine, and every service that is uniformly described within this existing “smart” foundation will become part of the manufacturing industry, making even this wood component industry more vendor-neutral.

Just this past April 1st, the first World Interoperability Conference took place at the Hannover Messe, ironically just after the World LIGNA show. The World Interoperability Conference is connecting national and international organizations and working groups developing industry-specific client/server protocol specifications.

This does not solve communication with older equipment with old software systems (or for that matter new equipment with old software platforms), but for more information, see also https://opcdatahub.com/WhatIsOPC.html. If you have any questions about Hundegger’s involvement and future progress, or for more INNOVATION you can reach out to me at any time.

 

Terms

IoT: Internet of Things is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, and objects that are provided with unique identifiers (UIDs) and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

Client/Server network:  A computer network in which one centralized, powerful computer (called the server) is a hub to which many less powerful personal computers or workstations (called clients) are connected. The clients run programs and access data that are stored on the server.

API: A set of functions and procedures allowing the creation of applications that access the features or data of an operating system, application, or manufacturing system.

Vendor-Neutral: This is my term suitable for, applicable to, or common to Vendors of all sizes and shapes and not defined by any one vendor.

Steve Shrader

Author: Steve Shrader

Business Development/Operations, Hundegger USA

You're reading an article from the September 2019 issue.

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