EMO Milano Umati status report: Progress in standardisation and global data connectivity
Italy — At EMO Milano, Umati was connecting more than 50 machines from all over the world, almost half of them remotely. Using the updated Umati dashboard, anyone interested could follow live to see what these machines, connected via the standardised OPC UA for Machine Tools interface, were doing and how they were working.
After making its first appearance over two years ago in Hanover, Umati (universal machine technology interface) was back in face-to-face setting at EMO Milano in Italy. Dr. Heinz-Jürgen Prokop, Chairman of the VDW, welcomed the guests to the international Umati event in Milan on 5 October 2021. His association and the VDMA both support the program. In his status report, he emphasised: “The most important milestone in the development of the OPC-UA Interface for Machine Tools was the publication of the specification almost exactly one year ago. It is now available free of charge worldwide, meaning that all companies that manufacture, use or offer software for machine tools can now develop and refine their products based on this specification,” said Prokop, outlining the current situation. The machine tool specification was also the first to be published which referenced the overarching specification for the entire machine and plant engineering industry, the OPC UA for Machinery.
The Machine Tool Group is contributing to develop this harmonised specification. Above all, it is designed to ensure the standardisation of a certain set of data relevant to the entire mechanical and plant engineering sector. The first step concerns the identification of the machine. In terms of digital nameplates, the type of machine is basically irrelevant. All machines have a manufacturer, serial number, date of manufacture, date of acquisition, location, etc. Thanks to OPC UA for Machinery, technology-specific specifications now no longer have to worry about identification but can concentrate fully on rendering the relevant technology-specific data. The next step in development involves harmonising the operating states of machines, as these, too, could be used at a higher, more universal level. This example highlights the gains in efficiency for manufacturers and machine users offered by OPC UA for Machinery.
To promote the use of these open standards is the mission of Umati. By now, this community and marketing initiative is no longer aimed exclusively at the machine tool industry, but at the entire machine and plant engineering sector. The initiative currently comprises almost 200 partners, including more than 160 companies. These are machine manufacturers, software providers and users. Woodworking machinery, surface technology and glass machines are part of Umati with their own OPC UA specifications.
Version 2 of OPC UA for Machine Tools targeting the automotive industry
The first version of the OPC UA for Machine Tools aimed to create a data set that is universally applicable to all machine tools. A subgroup of the Joint Working Group for Machine Tools is currently working on standardizing additional analysis data for KPI evaluations. “This will also transfer a large part of the machine and production data which the automotive industry already uses to our open interface,” predicted Prokop. This should make it easier for machine tool manufacturers to gain acceptance for the open interface from their main customer group in the future. The specification is scheduled for publication in the first quarter of 2022.
Plans for connection of IT, MES and ERP systems
The market success of interfaces depends on the existence of machines and software that are equipped with the corresponding interfaces, or that can process them. “Customers are already asking when their IT, MES or ERP system will finally be able to process the standardized data,” said Prokop, addressing the discussion. “We have been working on this problem with a number of high-profile partners for a while now. SAP, for example, has offered us support in staging live demonstrations on many occasions. Here at EMO Milano today we are pleased to announce the first production-ready interface implementations in well-known MES systems in conjunction with our partners mpdv and IGH-Infotec,” he announced.
Overall, Umati is attracting great interest and meeting with approval worldwide. In Milan alone, eleven machines from Chinese manufacturers were connected via the cooperating NC Link in China. “The gratifying response is spurring the machine manufacturers and the team on to persevere in the marathon task of developing such a standardized interface,” concluded Prokop.