OPC UA accelerates with time-sensitive networking

Dec. 7, 2018
New set of working groups will identify, manage and standardize the OPC UA relevant topics focused on industrial automation

The OPC Foundation announced Nov. 5 that it's launching a new setup to identify OPC UA and related time-sensitive networking (TSN)-harmonization needs and extends OPC Foundation standards and specifications.

The goal of this initiative is to deliver an open, cohesive approach to implement OPC UA including TSN and associated application profiles. This will advance the OPC Foundation providing vendor independent end-to-end interoperability into field level devices for all relevant industry automation use-cases. The OPC Foundation vision of becoming the worldwide industrial interoperability standard is advanced by integrating field devices and the shop floor.

18 times faster

OPC UA over TSN will enable plug-and-produce networks that are easy to administer and configure. Network stations will communicate up to 18 times faster than with any protocol available on the market today, according to Stefan Schönegger, vice president of strategy and innovation, B&R Industrial Automation. He adds this acceleration will open up new possibilities in areas such as tightly synchronized motion and control applications. OPC UA over TSN will also meet the requirements of future IoT applications. The technology supports networks comprising tens of thousands of nodes and benefits from bandwidth extensions to the Ethernet standard. Even large volumes of data, such as those generated by integrated machine vision applications, can be handled with ease.

"We're working to make sure that both builders and operators of industrial machinery see real benefits from harmonized communication as soon as possible," says Schönegger, vice president of strategy and innovation at B&R. "In terms of communication, machine builders and operators are no longer bound to specific suppliers." In addition, B&R's parent company ABB has been appointed to the board of the OPC Foundation.

Working groups organized

A new set of working groups will identify, manage and standardize the OPC UA relevant topics focused on industrial automation including, harmonization and standardization of application profiles, such as I/O, motion control, safety, system redundancy standardization of OPC UA information models for field level devices in offline such as device description, and online such as diagnostics mapping of OPC UA application profiles related to real-time operations on Ethernet networks including TSN definition of certification procedures.

The working groups will closely align with the TSN Profile for Industrial Automation (TSN-IA-Profile) which will be standardized by the IEC/IEEE 60802 standardization group. This will help ensure that a single, converged TSN network approach is maintained so that OPC UA can share one common multi-vendor TSN network infrastructure together with other applications.

The foundation adds this initiative integrates well with existing joint working groups engaged in ongoing companion specification such as description of machines. Stefan Hoppe, president of the OPC Foundation, reports, “The benefit of membership in the OPC Foundation allows companies to actively engage and influence the direction of the OPC Foundation and includes early access to the specifications and technology. This initiative will grow OPC UA into new markets and I highly encourage all OPC Foundation members to contact the OPC Foundation to participate."

Thomas Burke, strategic marketing officer of the OPC Foundation, adds, “We're very excited about the initiative to extend OPC UA including TSN down to the field level, and the number of companies that want to actively participate in this initiative bringing the technology into real world products. This set of working groups will pave the way for the broadest, easiest, and fastest market adoption of OPC UA over TSN.”

Major players join in

The foundation added on Nov. 27 that within weeks of announcing its OPC UA including TSN down to field level initiative, a rapid engagement of leading automation suppliers is proving the resonance of this initiative with the emerging needs of the automation users. Committed contributors to the initiative includes leading suppliers, such as 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, Yokogawa.

“It's 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," adds Hoppe. "This clearly shows that standardization is one of the key drivers for digitalization and IIoT.”