„The OPC UA interface“
Optimizing manufacturing processes, increasing capacity utilization
Large quantities of highly informative and continuously available data are essential for digital, networked production and manufacturing in accordance with the Industry 4.0 principle. Such data forms the basis for optimizing manufacturing processes, increasing capacity utilization and reducing downtimes. It also makes it possible to detect and eliminate malfunctions quickly and efficiently. At Otto Bihler Maschinenfabrik, machine data is recorded using the VC1 controller and made available via the Bihler OPC UA interface.
OPC UA stands for “Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture” and is a standardized, secure communication protocol for machine-to-machine communication and industrial automation. The solution was developed by the OPC Foundation, a globally active non-profit organization, and provides a uniform message format in addition to simple interfaces. At Otto Bihler Maschinenfabrik, the OPC UA interface function has been available since the end of 2018. The interface is implemented in all VC 1 controllers and is enabled on a customer-specific basis. On the one hand, the interface can be used to read out machine data which is then transferred to the customer’s analysis and evaluation systems. On the other, it is also possible as part of the job management process to send data from an external system to the machine which – following activation by the machine operator – then executes the corresponding production job.
The specified VC 1 machine data is kept available on Bihler’s in-house OPC UA server. Here, the VC1 controller acts as an OPC UA client. The data enters the customer’s network via the mGuard, a router with a firewall. The router makes sure that data exchange between the customer and Bihler takes place only over the defined ports and that the rest of the system is protected. Data security is also ensured in the same way with the Bihler Remote Service. An OPC UA client is also necessary in order to read out the machine data. This customer OPC UA client is present in many standard MES or ERP systems. Customers that want to use their own software can also integrate or program the OPC UA client themselves. In all cases, authentication is performed via security certificates or user ID and password. The data is transferred securely using the Basic256Sha256 method.
The amount of data available via the Bihler OPC UA is enormous. In this way, all the information relating to the current job is visible, as is the data relating to the machine status. In addition, all malfunctions and warnings can be displayed online in real time in the same way, of course, as the system’s specific measured values. The data permits the detailed monitoring of important process parameters, makes it possible to detect potential problems with particular parts and also reveals possible shortcomings in the organizational structure, for example when switching over from one job to the next. Difficulties with the feed technology can be overcome just as quickly as, for example, faults induced by axis overloads as a result of fluctuating material strip qualities. In practice, Bihler’s customers can already successfully improve their production efficiency by up to 30 percent.
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