EUROMAP out of the box
EUROMAP recommendations have helped establish the plastics industry as a pioneer in the implementation of standardized interfaces for multi-vendor machinery and equipment. Patrick Bruder and Christoph Trappl from B&R explain how the vendor-independent communication standard is now getting a performance boost for IoT and I4.0 solutions – with OPC UA.
Patrick, a number of EUROMAP recommendations are currently under revision. Are the existing ones no longer sufficient?
Patrick Bruder: Production processes in the plastics industry are being improved all the time, so there are always new requirements popping up for the hardware and software as well as for communication between the various components. That's why the various EUROMAP working groups are currently updating some of the recommendations.
Which recommendations are affected?
Bruder: A lot of the focus is currently on two interfaces: One is EUROMAP 77, which deals with communication between injection molding machines and manufacturing execution systems. The other is EUROMAP 79, which defines the interface between injection molding machines and handling machines or robots.
Are there any parallels between these two interfaces?
Bruder: Absolutely: both of them are based on OPC UA. The working groups quickly agreed that this vendor-independent standard would be a perfect fit for both applications – despite the stark differences in their communication requirements. We are convinced that OPC UA will be the go-to standard for the networked factories of the future, so it was only logical for us to use it as the basis for the new EUROMAP recommendations.
Can OPC UA handle the time-critical communication between an injection molding machine and associated robots?
Bruder: It can. When combined with Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) that's no problem at all. Even in its early stages, the TSN Testbed has achieved remarkable cycle times with OPC UA TSN. In addition to B&R, other participants in the testbed include National Instruments, Cisco, Kuka, TTTech and Intel. The TSN Testbed was initiated by the Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC), of which B&R is also a member. TSN technology enables deterministic real-time communication. With OPC UA TSN, injection molded parts can be extracted with levels of speed and precision that would have been unthinkable with the earlier EUROMAP interface.
Christoph, why is it that B&R – an automation technology company – is so actively involved in the development of interfaces for the plastics industry? Wouldn't that normally be more of a job for your customers?
Christoph Trappl: That's exactly the point: Our customers – manufacturers of plastics machinery – need to deliver machines that comply with the EUROMAP recommendations. Otherwise, they'll have problems with market acceptance. That's why we've gone ahead and integrated the most widely used EUROMAP interfaces right into our system.
What does that mean, exactly?
Trappl: Well, for example, we offer mapp components for the interfaces. You just drag-and-drop these modular, precoded software blocks into the automation project and they're ready to go. All our customers have to do is set a few parameters and they've got a fully functional EUROMAP interface. That's exactly what we strive for as a provider of automation solutions. We take the low-level programming tasks for basic functions off our customers' hands. This frees them up to focus on what they do best, which is translate their process-specific expertise into an optimally functioning machine.