FRANKFURT — "We want to make machine vision fit for Industry 4.0 and for the factory of the future. We are aiming at straightforward integration of machine vision systems into production control and IT systems via OPC Unified Architecture," says Dr. Klaus-Henning Noffz, CEO of Silicon Software and in charge of standardization issues at the Board of VDMA Machine Vision. In the course of the AUTOMATICA trade fair VDMA Machine Vision and the OPC Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the preparation of an OPC UA Machine Vision Companion Specification.

The resolution was preceded by an international study under the lead of VDMA Machine Vision last summer. It was aimed at showing which standards are important to prepare the sector for the future. "Camera interfaces and standards for communication and networking of various machine vision components within the system are already there, tremendously facilitating the work of systems integrators. What is missing is a generic interface for machine vision systems at user level," says Dr. Horst Heinol-Heikkinen, Managing Director of ASENTICS and board member of VDMA Machine Vision. VDMA Machine Vision wants to address this topic by introducing an OPC UA Machine Vision Companion Specification. First discussions have already been initiated on which information, data, functions and services should be integrated into a production network and mapped in OPC UA.

Machine Vision: When Machines See and Comprehend

Machine vision systems have become an indispensable part of industrial production. They perform quality tests, guide machines, control processes, identify components, read codes and deliver valuable data for optimizing production. No other current component in the production process gathers and interprets as many data as machine vision does. "In my view, it is a key technology for the successful implementation of Industry 4.0," says Noffz.

Heinol-Heikkinen adds, "Standardised integration of machine vision with all its possibilities will advance it from a mere inspection system to a genuine production optimizer."

“The OPC Foundation provides THE industrial interoperability standard for horizontal and vertical information integration from sensors to the enterprise," Stefan Hoppe, vice president of the OPC Foundation, said. "OPC UA’s initial focus was the industrial automation market and because OPC UA is completely vendor and operating system independent, it has quickly become the adopted interoperability solution for other markets and domains.

Machine and device manufacturers describe their data and interfaces and then configure the security credentials to make them available or keep them protected. Different transport mechanisms are integrated to move data and information best for different scenarios for both the shop floor and also for cloud solutions. OPC UA technology has already been named the recommended communication technology in Germany’s Industrie 4.0 initiative. The German Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), thoroughly analyzed OPC UA data security and published a highly positive review. Many other organizations have taken advantage of the OPC UA information modeling capabilities allowing seamless information integration between previously disconnected systems. VDMA Machine Vision early recognized the potential of OPC UA – the joint working group will create a companion specification which will enable camera vision systems to be easily and securely connected to controllers but also into the IT world."

More and more VDMA trade associations focus on OPC Unified Architecture. A VDMA guideline "Industrie-4.0-Kommunikation mit OPC-UA" (Industrie 4.0 communication with OPC UA) is currently being prepared. It is intended to support the mechanical engineering industry in the integration process and provide recommendations for action. “With the guideline, we aim at giving a clear endorsement for OPC UA as communication protocol for Industrie 4.0. This leads to lowering the barriers of small and medium-sized companies in the establishment and expansion of industrial communication within the Industrie 4.0 context.” says Dr. Christian Mosch of the VDMA Industrie 4.0 Forum.

About VDMA Machine Vision

The VDMA represents over 3,100 mainly small and medium size member companies in the engineering industry, making it one of the largest and most important industrial associations in Europe. As a part of the VDMA Robotics + Automation Association, VDMA Machine Vision unites more than 115 members: companies offering machine vision systems and components. The objective of this industry-driven platform is to support the machine vision sector through a wide spectrum of activities and services. Current activities include statistics and the annual VDMA Machine Vision Market Survey, marketing services, public relations, trade fair policy, future radar, networking events and conferences.

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