OPC UA (Open Platform Communications Unified Architecture) is an industrial automation and data transfer standard that enables communication between various devices, software, and systems. It was developed in 2008, and the organization behind it is called the OPC Foundation. OPC UA is based on the earlier OPC standard (OLE for Process Control), but it has been designed to be more flexible, secure, and widely applicable. 

OPC UA has gained widespread adoption in various industries, including manufacturing, energy, automotive, and process automation due to its interoperability, security, and flexibility. It plays a crucial role in enabling the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0 initiatives by facilitating seamless communication and integration of diverse industrial devices and systems. 

6 key features of OPC UA 

For years, Process Genius has been helping customers transform traditional factories into smart, digitalized environments. In our experience, OPC UA has six key features that make it stand out as an integration technology for manufacturing plants:

1. Platform independence

OPC UA is designed to work across different platforms, including Windows, Linux, and embedded systems. It uses platform-independent communication protocols, such as TCP/IP and web services, allowing interoperability between different operating systems and hardware architectures. 

2. Security

OPC UA incorporates robust security measures to protect data integrity, confidentiality, and authentication. It supports various security features like encryption, digital signatures, and secure authentication mechanisms, ensuring secure communication and preventing unauthorized access.

3. Scalability

OPC UA is scalable and can be used in small-scale systems as well as large-scale enterprise applications. It supports both point-to-point and multi-node communication models, enabling communication between multiple devices and systems in a network. 

4. Data modeling

OPC UA provides a flexible and extensible data modeling framework. It allows users to define custom data structures, object types, and methods, enabling efficient representation and exchange of complex data. It also supports hierarchical browsing and browsing-based access to data and functionality. 

5. Alarms and events

OPC UA includes mechanisms for handling alarms, events, and historical data. It allows real-time notification and reporting of critical events, such as alarms, failures, or abnormal conditions, facilitating proactive maintenance and troubleshooting. 

6. Historical data access

OPC UA provides support for accessing historical data stored in industrial systems. If siloes with historical data are available then OPC UA enables retrieval of these data, including process values, events, and alarms, allowing analysis and visualization of historical trends. 

How to implement OPC UA? 

Nowadays, OPC UA is relatively easy to implement, as many device manufacturers and software developers support the standard. In addition, the OPC Foundation provides development tools that facilitate the implementation of OPC UA-based solutions. OPC UA is a continuously evolving and widely accepted technology, so its adoption has become more common in industrial automation.  

Modern machines are highly developed robots that are controlled by industrial computers. In the present day, industrial automation systems encompass a diverse range of interconnected sensors and actuators, encompassing components such as motors, relays, and more. The logic component within the system receives input from these sensors and issues commands based on their status.  

The logic component serves as the central control system for managing all functions of the machine. As the complexity of the machine increases, the number of required sensors and other devices also grows. Consequently, the logic system incorporates a substantial number of variables within its code to effectively handle the extensive range of inputs and operations.  

Line switches typically consist of multiple logic components, with the Client logic serving as the commanding entity for the entire system. The server logics are the controlled components, following the instructions provided by the Client logic. OPC UA can be employed to gather comprehensive variable data from the line’s logic. By collecting data solely from the Client PLC, a significantly greater number of variables can typically be accessed compared to what machine users observe on their HMI panels.  

Pic. 1 OPC UA connection process  

Typically, in industrial processes, a standard procedure (as depicted in pic. 1) is followed to enable real-time data collection and distribution. Once you have configured the necessary settings in your client application, you can initiate a connection to the OPC UA server. If the connection is established successfully and the security settings are accurate, you will have the capability to retrieve and update data from the server. It is important that OPC UA facilitates the acquisition of big data from machinery, which can subsequently undergo processing leveraging artificial intelligence. Industries are undergoing digital transformation to enable the amalgamation of data from diverse sources, allowing AI to analyze data obtained from OPC UA, ERP, SCADA, and other systems.  

What is Genius Core™ 3D Digital Twin platform and why is it important?

Genius Core™ 3D Digital Twin platform creates an identical copy of the physical real-world factory that collects and visualises information from existing devices and systems. One of the keys to our proven over the years success is a strong cooperation with Beckhoff Automation.  

With Beckhoff’s PLC industrial computer we manage to open new possibilities to our customers such as: 

production tracking

machine utilization rate

detection of bottlenecks

accident and deviation info

machine exception behaviour reports

From the perspective of our customers, the crucial information in modern logic systems is the data collected directly from the field. These logics incorporate a wide array of sensors that transmit their data directly into our program, eliminating the need for us to install additional sensors on the machines ourselves. Even current measurement sensors are now integrated into the machines for energy consumption calculations. Nevertheless, we possess extensive expertise in working with both wireless and wired sensors, supplied by renowned brands such as Advantech, Haltian, and HW Group. Genius Core™ 3D Digital Twin platform gathers data from sensors and presents a comprehensive 3D overview of a plant, incorporating essential environmental condition data.   

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