VDMA and VDW recently joined forces to promote the use and dissemination of OPC UA standards throughout the mechanical engineering sector under the umati label, which is a universal machine tool interface label launched by VDMA in 2018.
Explaining the strategy at the associations' joint press conference in Frankfurt am Main, Dr Wilfried Schäfer, Executive Director, VDW (German Machine Tool Builders' Association), said, "Cross-industry and cross-technology marketing will take our customers a significant step forward." “Manufacturing companies have not only machine tools but also their own individual mix of machines, equipment, robots and systems. If all these technologies can exist in a common ecosystem which is ideal for producing plug-and-play solutions, this will save end users a lot of time and money," Schäfer continued.
Continuing the discussion, Hartmut Rauen, Deputy Executive Director, VDMA (German Engineering Federation), added, "Over 30 specialist groupings in more than 17 associations are working on technology-specific interfaces, the companion specifications. This high level of collaboration forms the basis of true, open interoperability between machines and software systems, from the shop floor to the cloud. Only the VDMA has the means to unite the necessary integrative forces from the wide range of production domains.“
The mechanical and plant engineering sector adopted OPC UA as the standard for data exchange from an early stage as OPC UA provides a uniform framework for machine and system interoperability. Later, Rauen announced that the first version is scheduled for publication later this year.
The new name umati – universal machine technology interface represents a performance promise of interoperable production. umati is a brand and label for a community that has come together to propagate the OPC UA standards within the mechanical and plant engineering sector. It provides a framework for joint marketing, public relations, demonstration of use cases and for end customer communication. It is based on the OPC UA interface standardisation in various branches of mechanical and plant engineering. "That is why in the future we will always be referring to the latest version of the OPC UA companion specification for machine tools", explained Schäfer.
The next steps include further optimisation of the relevant companion specifications, dissemination of the respective standards, and the staging of showcases at trade fairs. The umati showcases highlight the cross-industry use of various OPC UA standards in a practical way, aimed at demonstrating the suitability of OPC UA standards for everyday use in production to the diverse range of customers.
"We expect to see the first concrete products based on the OPC UA Specification for Machine Tools providing connectivity to customers in the second half of this year," said Schäfer. "For our partners it is, therefore, all the more important that the development of the umati community also adheres to this roadmap in providing clear visibility and raising awareness levels," he continued.
"The VDW and VDMA have decided to take care of this together in future. Production managers all over the world must be able to count on machines from any given manufacturer being able to speak the same language, thus turning the claim of umati - Connecting the World of Machinery, into reality," concluded Rauen.