umati becomes the world language of production

by Hans Diederichs

In the future, VDMA and VDW will jointly promote the use and distribution of OPC UA standards for the entire mechanical engineering industry under the umati brand.

"Cross-industry and cross-technology marketing brings our customers a giant step forward," said Dr. Wilfried Schäfer, Managing Director of the VDW (German Machine Tool Builders' Association), explaining the strategy at the joint press conference of the two associations in Frankfurt am Main.

"Manufacturing companies do not only have machine tools, but an individual mix of different machines and equipment, robots and systems. If all these technologies are in a common ecosystem that creates plug-and-play solutions, this saves end users a lot of time and money," Schäfer continues. Hartmut Rauen, Deputy General Manager of the VDMA (German Engineering Federation), adds:

"17 trade associations work in more than 30 groups on their technology-specific interfaces, the so-called Companion Specifications. This high level of participation forms the basis for real, open interoperability between machines and software systems, from the shop floor to the cloud. Only the VDMA has the power to bring together the necessary integration power of the most diverse domains of the production worlds".

OPC UA Companion Specification for Machinery to be released in 2020

Early on, the machine and plant construction industry has adopted OPC UA as the standard for data exchange. OPC UA offers a uniform framework for interoperability between machines and systems. Using a bottom-up approach, it became clear that basic elements for a large part of the diverse product range in mechanical and plant engineering must be defined uniformly. The simplest example is machine identification, i.e. features such as manufacturer, serial number, year of manufacture and machine type.

For this reason, various departments within the VDMA, including Electrical Power Transmission, Plastics and Rubber Machinery, Machine Vision, Metallurgy, Robotics and Machine Tools, are working on the Basics Companion Specification OPC UA for Machinery. "The first version will be released in the current year", announces Hartmut Rauen, "This foundation brings speed and compatibility".

umati addresses the end customer

The machine tool industry was also at the forefront of this process. As early as 2017, an initiative to develop a standardised, open interface was presented. Here too, OPC UA was quickly chosen as the basic technology. Only two years later, a showcase with 70 partners from ten countries at the EMO Hanover proved that the connection of 110 machines to 28 software services, which were distributed decentrally across the exhibition grounds, practically works "plug and play". In addition, the VDW launched the umati - universal machine tool interface label as early as 2018, the brand with which customers can be addressed worldwide.

In the meantime, numerous other OPC UA Companion Specifications have been developed in the VDMA and its partner organizations. In order to give them more visibility and to make them even more applicable, umati as a community for the use and marketing of OPC UA Companion Specifications is now being extended to the entire machine and plant construction industry.

"The production managers of this world must be able to trust that the machines of the most diverse manufacturers speak the same language and that they can implement the claim of umati - Connecting the World of Machinery".

The new name is umati - universal machine technology interface and stands for the performance promise of interoperable production. umati denotes a brand and a label for a community that has joined forces to spread the OPC UA standards in mechanical and plant engineering. It provides a framework for joint marketing, public relations, demonstration of use cases and addressing end customers. The basis for this is the actual OPC UA interface standardization in various branches of mechanical and plant engineering. "For the machine tool industry, we are therefore talking in future about the current version of the OPC UA Companion Specification for Machine Tools", explains Wilfried Schäfer from VDW.

The next steps include the further optimization of the respective Companion Specifications as well as the dissemination of the respective standards and the creation of showcases at trade fairs. In order to demonstrate the suitability of OPC UA standards for everyday use in production to the diverse customer world, the umati showcase will demonstrate the cross-industry use of various OPC UA standards in a practical way.

"We expect to see the first concrete products providing connectivity to customers based on the OPC UA Specification for Machine Tools in the second half of this year," said Schäfer. "This makes it all the more important for our partners that the development of the umati community follows this roadmap and provides strong visibility and perception", he adds.

VDW and VDMA will take care of this together in the future. "The production managers of this world must be able to trust that the machines of different manufacturers speak the same language and that they can implement the claim of umati - Connecting the World of Machinery", Rauen concludes.

Source and photo: VDMA

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