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It seems everyone these days is talking about OPC UA and TSN. For many machine builders and plant operators, however, it remains unclear what specific advantages stand to be gained from using these technologies in their own equipment and facilities. In this two-part series, networking specialist Stefan Bina will shed some light on the matter by answering some of the most important questions about OPC UA over TSN and its role in the future of industrial IoT communication.

Why is OPC UA over TSN necessary?

OPC UA over TSN enables secure-by-design modular machine concepts and flexible production architectures on the shop floor. These will help users streamline their machines and plants for economical batch-size-one production. Additionally, it offers secure insight into manufacturing processes for ongoing performance optimizations and predictive maintenance – without disturbing machine operations.

Why do I need OPC UA in the first place?

Today's proprietary fieldbus systems communicate using raw data – just zeros and ones. Without the corresponding tables, devices on the network don't know how to interpret that data. That makes it impossible to achieve the kind of seamless communication required in the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). With its information model, OPC UA enriches the raw data with semantic descriptions. These give it context and meaning, so any device or person that receives the information can correctly interpret it without any further explanation.

OPC UA offers so-called methods that enable direct interaction with assets. Machines can query each other to find out what kind of services, interfaces and capabilities they provide – which enables them to interact more efficiently and autonomously.

Why is it necessary to combine OPC UA with TSN?

TSN's determinism allows machine-to-machine OPC UA communication to better synchronize a multi-vendor plant floor. The same holds true for device-level communication within the machines themselves. OPC UA provides a standardized way to structure data. It adds semantics for any kind of asset and provides it in a secure manner. TSN is the infrastructure, the highway that OPC UA drives on in a deterministic way.

Without the interoperability provided by OPC UA over TSN, these multi-vendor communications would have to be hard-coded – adding exorbitant development costs and canceling out any gains in flexibility. On top of that, OPC UA over TSN guarantees continuous insight without disturbing machine operations.

Networking specialist Stefan Bina answers some of the most important questions about OPC UA over TSN and its role in the future of industrial communication.

What role does OPC UA over TSN play in Industrial IoT applications?

Industrial IoT applications are data driven – information is their lifeblood. OPC UA over TSN adds a vast array of sensors, actuators and other automation devices to the available pool of information by extending the semantic self-description of the OPC UA information model down to the field level.

The Industrial IoT promises us an ability to design efficient and effective production processes that are at the same time cheaper and easier to commission and maintain. It also promises to allow profitable mass customization of products.

Did you know that OPC UA over TSN...

...ensures vendor-independent interoperability for industrial applications, today and in the future?

…is supported by all the major automation suppliers? 100% open, significantly faster and secure?

…offers increased OEE and more freedom for innovation?

…helps lower overall operating costs and optimize service and maintenance?

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