OPC UA TSN: The future of communication has arrived
Integration of all communication from the ERP level to the field level is an essential requirement for today's most advanced production systems. To bridge the divide between IT and automation, plant operators are increasingly turning to the open OPC UA standard. When it comes to complex processes with real-time requirements, however, OPC UA has had its limitations. That is now changing thanks to Time Sensitive Networking (TSN).
100% interoperability and synchronization
The fourth industrial revolution has taken great strides under the leadership of global initiatives aimed at making manufacturing more efficient and effective. A central role in the transition is played by intersystem connectivity, which relies on precisely timed exchange of information between components, and between components and the cloud. So far, the necessary timing precision has been achieved using a variety of proprietary protocols, forcing users to compensate for the lack of interoperability with enormous amounts of extra work.
Through intense collaboration, a group of automation suppliers has succeeded in achieving 100% interoperability with precise timing between their respective systems. OPC UA TSN makes it possible to create uniform solutions for all applications to achieve seamless connectivity.
Automated communication reduces engineering during commissioning
OPC UA TSN combines IT mechanisms with OT requirements to allow network nodes to communicate and exchange information automatically. As networks become self-configurable, all that remains to do during commissioning is make adjustments based on the requirements of the application. With the focus on the application itself, rather than configuring the network, commissioning times are reduced drastically.
Easily model large volumes of data
As network architectures grow, so does the volume of data being transmitted. The information models offered by OPC UA make it possible to represent this data in a structured and consistent way throughout the system. The information models make it easy to model the properties of objects – which can be things like devices, lines or plants. Standardized models have been defined to make data modeling as efficient as possible. They can be used and expanded as necessary. The models range from individual drives to entire machines. Harmonization at this level allows communication to be automated and prevents complications when replacing faulty components.
The first product to arrive on the scene is an OPC UA TSN bus controller designed for integration as a data source in OPC UA TSN networks. Signals from processes are read via the respective I/O connections and made available to higher-level systems via OPC UA TSN. Any OPC UA client is able to access the bus controller deterministically. B&R's bus controller is the first device on the market to allow OPC UA TSN connections.
Having played an instrumental role in the development of OPC UA TSN, B&R quickly applied the valuable experience to the development of its own OPC UA TSN enabled products.