The only path to functioning networks in the context of Industrie 4.0 is by way of standards. They ensure a smooth information flow within the production process. That is why PI works closely with other organizations to advance usable and reliable solutions. This is illustrated with three examples from the past year.
It normally takes time until a cooperation agreement yields actual technological results. PI sets the pace here.
In the upcoming months, the OPC Foundation and PI will collaborate even more closely than before. The experts from PI expect that OPC UA (Unified Architecture) will be an essential building block for Industrie 4.0, in particular when it comes to data exchange with devices such as operator stations via the controller level. Or for production data from devices to corporate IT, especially in an environment with different providers. The service-oriented architecture of OPC UA becomes the link for the non-deterministic communication between different types of nodes of these levels and between levels. PROFINET takes over the transmission of deterministic real-time data and control-relevant acyclic data in automation systems. PROFINET and OPC UA are therefore already a perfect complement to one another today because PROFINET allows open communication based on TCP/IP in parallel without additional expense. Example: automation of a screwdriver control in real-time using PROFINET. Quality data such as tightening torques can then be transmitted to the quality management systems over the same cable via OPC UA.
Evidence of successful results from close collaboration between different organizations in the field of industrial automation can already be seen in the development of FDI technology. Even if the objectives of the FDI Cooperation LLC have been achieved, the important task of establishing FDI technology on the market still remains. FieldComm Group, FDT Group, OPC Foundation, and PI will therefore share in the maintenance and further development of the FDI Specification. Another supporting element for the market dissemination of FDI is provision of tools and components for efficient product development. For support of device manufacturers in the integration of FDI in their devices, a cross-protocol development environment (Integrated Development Environment, IDE) has been provided, which enables efficient development, testing, and generation of FDI Device Packages as well as low-cost transfer of existing EDD into an FDI Device Package. Device manufacturers can use this to create FDI Device Packages for PROFIBUS, PROFINET, Foundation Fieldbus, and HART devices using uniform processes. Another important result for FDI is the definition of an architecture for FDI host components that enables consistent processing of device integration packages in various FDI hosts. The resulting implementation of such a component should serve as a reference for host manufacturers when implementing FDI in their tools. The further development and maintenance of the IDE and FDI host component will be carried out in close collaboration between the FieldComm Group and PI.
Besides the successful collaboration in the process industry, another important collaborative activity in the production industry was wrapped up. CLPA (CC-Link Partners Association) and PI want to replace gateways that are currently often needed between CC-Link IE and PROFINET networks with standardized interfaces. Regardless of which network is present in an installation, users will be able to easily integrate devices and components of CC-Link IE in PROFINET, and vice versa, in the future. To convert the results of this cooperation into real technology, two standardized technical gateway solutions are contemplated: coupler solution and link solution.
Coupler solution: This solution covers the communication between machines or systems. For example, an Asian machine builder might want to be able to sell a machine including a controller with CC-Link IE to a customer in Europe that uses a PROFINET network, or vice versa. For this purpose, the machine with one network is connected to the other network via a coupler as a kind of black box, thus as though a conventional network component were involved. Cyclic data exchange will function as usual. The acquisition of machine data or system data is acyclic on PROFINET or with SLMP on CC-Link IE. The configuration of this coupler, basic engineering, device profile handling, and network management can be carried out as usual. Complicated data transfers are not required here.
Link solution: This solution is aimed at easy integration of devices, e.g., when a drive in one network is to be connected to a controller in another network. In this case, users can rely on the seamless cyclic data exchange process. Device information is also acquired acyclically or with SLMP, same as with the coupler solution. The configuration, basic engineering, device profile handling, device addressing, and network management can be carried out as usual. Network status and acyclic data are indicated as before.
These solutions will enable very easy integration of machines and various systems into existing networks. Moreover, users can select from a wide variety of devices, systems, and machines, which gives them maximum freedom and significant cost savings in the planning of their networks.
Conclusion: Partnerships, especially those that result in technology, always mean added value – for users and manufacturers alike. Over the long-term they not only save money but also provide new outlooks when considering new markets as well as interesting future concepts of Industrie 4.0.