OPC UA at the field level

Specification for controller-to-controller finished

10. Dezember 2021, 20:58 Uhr | Andreas Knoll
Peter Lutz, Director Field Level Communications der OPC Foundation
Peter Lutz, OPC Foundation: "We are extending OPC UA communication to the field level as OPC UA FX, for all conceivable use cases in factory and process automation."
© OPC Foundation

The FLC (Field Level Communications) initiative of the OPC Foundation has come one step closer to their goal of establishing OPC UA communication at the field level: They have completed the specification for controller-to-controller communication and submitted it to the Member Review.

"The goal of the FLC initiative is to extend OPC UA communication to the field level as OPC UA FX (Field eXchange) for all conceivable use cases in factory and process automation," explains Peter Lutz, Director Field Level Communications of the OPC Foundation. "According to our roadmap, we have initially focused on controller-to-controller communication, i.e. horizontal communication between controllers, and will then start to expand to controller-to-device and device-to-device communication. We extend the OPC UA framework to cover additional requirements such as determinism, functional safety, motion control, distributed I/Os, and process instruments. In addition, we define the information models for the different automation components, determine procedures for offline/online configuration and combine our technology with others, such as TSN and Ethernet-APL."

The specification for controller-to-controller communication forms the basis for the extensions that will cover controller-to-device and device-to-device communication in the next step. It is planned to start the corresponding work at the beginning of next year.

The release candidate for controller-to-controller communication consists of four specification parts (Parts 80 to 83) and focuses on the exchange of process and configuration data using OPC UA client/server and pub/sub extensions in combination with peer-to-peer connections and basic diagnostic functions. Part 80 (OPC 10000-80) provides an overview and introduces the basic concepts of using OPC UA for field level communication. Part 81 (OPC 10000-81) specifies the basic information model and communication concepts to meet the various use cases and requirements of factory and process automation. Part 82 (OPC 10000-82) describes network services such as topology discovery and time synchronisation. Part 83 (OPC 10000-83) describes the data structures for the exchange of information required for offline engineering using descriptors and descriptor packets.

Two other working groups of the FLC initiative have also made progress, contributing to a harmonised solution for motion and safety applications: the Safety Working Group has completed version 2.0 of the OPC UA Safety Specification (OPC 10000-15), which includes extensions for OPC UA Pub/Sub and support for OPC UA FX. And the Motion Working Group started developing an architecture and common information model for motion devices in May 2020, leading to the specification of requirements and the creation of a technical concept.

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