Interface to the future

Network machines without any programming knowledge, facilitate data exchange, and define device capabilities: With OPC UA, ZELTWANGER is helping other companies to take a huge leap towards Industry 4.0.

Further development of the OPC UA interface architecture has been an integral part of ZELTWANGER since 2016 and it has now become standard for all our devices and systems.

The OPC UA Demonstrator, a project that is exploring the requirements of interoperable communication, was also set up in 2018 in collaboration with other companies.

We answer some important questions about the potential of this data exchange standard.

ZELTWANGER is pioneer when it comes to OPC UA. What has been done so far?

It’s simple: We have incorporated an OPC UA server into all our leak testing devices. This makes us the only manufacturer in the world to have integrated a standardized OPC UA interface into all of its devices.

Why is this such an important topic for ZELTWANGER? What is its biggest potential?

We want to offer an intuitive interface in our systems and devices using OPC UA which anyone can understand and use without any programming knowledge.

We see potential in automation in particular. This is because custom machine manufacturers are often end customer-driven and need to use functionally identical components from various manufacturers. You see this in particular in the field of robotics and image processing.

As a result, the more different devices and interfaces a custom machine manufacturer installs in its systems, the more expertise is required for commissioning and development and the less reusable the software code is. This also has an impact on the development and commissioning time as well as on the resulting costs.

What advantages can the integrated OPC UA server bring to a specific application as an example?

Customers are always interested in machine, operating, and process data to help them draw conclusions about production quality. If possible, this data should be made available in the same way for every device.

To do this, the customer usually has a higher-level control system with an integrated OPC UA client. In its basic form, the data exchange is simply configured and no longer complexly programmed with the definition of bit and byte sequences. This saves time and money and enables the software modules to be reused.

With our OPC UA servers, it is possible not only to monitor the statuses of our devices, but also to control processes. For example, you can start or stop a test sequence using a control system or a controller with an OPC UA client. You can also change or monitor process parameters. This enables our customers to check a measured value via the OPC UA server, for example.

OPC UA is also integrated into the X-CELL. What exactly does that mean?

There is no public OPC UA interface in the X-CELL as of yet. But we are currently using the OPC UA server of the PLC control system to exchange individual sequences (robot processes) with the X-CELL database.

With our new development X-CELL WB, an X-CELL for loading machine tools, we control the integrated robot via our PLC instead of via the manufacturer-specific robot control system. This enables us to move and teach the robot in via our own user interface. The collected data, such as axis positions and coordinate systems, is saved in our machine database.

Alongside control and teaching-in of the robot, it is also possible to configure individual robot programs without any programming knowledge. The sequences created are managed in the database. This means the customer can create an order for each product that they produce on their machine tool, which can then be assigned a robot program. All data for order processing and for executing the robot program is queried from the database via the PLC using OPC UA.

And what is the added value for customers with the X-CELL?

The integration of the OPC UA server allows the customer to query data in the databases for various PLC controllers in a standardized way. OPC UA also enables exchange of large quantities of data. This means that the PLC does not need to be responsible for data storage and can use its resources for actual process tasks.

As a user, do I need to make sure everything is ready for Industry 4.0 first, or can I start using OPC UA bit by bit?

All information and control tasks that are facilitated by the OPC UA server can also be accessed via classic interfaces. So no, you do not need to have everything converted ready for OPC UA communication straight away.

The OPC UA server is currently seen as an additional interface for our devices and not as a replacement interface. Our customers benefit from future-proof systems and devices.

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