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OPC Foundation and FieldComm to harmonize OPC UA-based field instruments


August 23, 2022  by Manufacturing AUTOMATION

The OPC Foundation (OPCF) and the FieldComm Group (FCG) are collaborating to drive multi-vendor interoperability of instrumentation devices based on OPC UA and the extensions for the field level named OPC UA FX (Field eXchange). This development will incorporate preliminary work by both organizations.

This will ensure that the market will have only one single standard. The aim is to provide an interoperable interface between PLC/DCS and instrumentation devices, such as transmitters, instruments and actuators.

The OPC Foundation is hosting a new OPC UA Instrumentation Working Group under the leadership of the Field Level Communications (FLC) initiative. Members of the OPC Foundation and corporate entity members of the FieldComm Group will be able to participate.

Many well-known manufacturers in the process and factory automation industries are represented within this working group to ensure a uniform, worldwide and coordinated standard for OPC UA-based instrumentation devices.

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The working group will add to the UAFX base specifications the definition of interfaces and behaviours typical for instrumentation devices.

These include the following:

  • commonly used interfaces and data types for the industries mentioned above including functional safety,
  • diagnostic information specific to instrumentation devices,
  • operation modes of instrumentation devices,
  • state machines and timing models for instrumentation-specific functionality, where appropriate.

The new instrumentation device profile specification will use PubSub. It can be combined with different underlying communication protocols (e.g. UDP/IP) and physical layers (e.g. Ethernet-APL) to support all relevant use cases in discrete and process manufacturing. This includes safety instrumentation based on OPC UA Safety and deterministic data exchange based on Ethernet Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), where appropriate.

The Instrumentation Facet shall complement the jointly-owned OPC 30081 / FCG TS10098 “OPC UA for Process Automation Devices (PA-DIM)” and other companion specifications. The working group will also strive to manage overlap with other information models already released or under development.

“Extending the OPC UA Framework with an information model for instrumentation devices is important to ensure – in combination with OPC UA Safety, deterministic communication, motion and ethernet-APL/SPE – cross-vendor interoperability and common semantics, not only for the controller-to-controller and controller-to-device use cases in factory and process automation, but also supporting OPC UA as a fully scalable technology from the sensor across all levels to MES / ERP and also to the cloud,” stated Peter Lutz, director of FLC Initiative at OPC Foundation.


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