Efficient manufacturing facilities for individualised products require highly flexible resources that can be easily integrated, from the IT system to the individual machine. In a smart factory, machines must be flexible in various ways: They must be able to rapidly adapt to changing production processes. They must also be able to flexibly integrate into various vertical, horizontal or service-oriented communication architectures. The TwinCAT automation platform, which implements the machine control system as well as various communication scenarios, provides this high level of flexibility. Supporting all common IT and automation protocols, TwinCAT makes conventional top-down communication as well as service-oriented architectures possible, and thus enables the convergence of “real” physical systems with “virtual” digital data models to form intelligent and self-organising manufacturing units.
The SOA PLC introduced by Beckhoff in 2014 is a TwinCAT 3 application scenario that combines logic functions with OPC UA services for data-consistent, secure and standardised communication. The benefits of this service-oriented architecture as a “ready-to-use technology” will be demonstrated at this year’s Hannover Messe in an Industrie 4.0 showcase at the SAP booth in hall 7. Beckhoff and other partners will Show there a line for “personalised production” with lot sizes as small as 1. The product and control parameters come directly from the SAP Manufacturing Suite. The production line is based on the linear XTS transport system from Beckhoff as well as automation components from Elster-Kromschröder (measurement technology), Asentics (image processing), Stäubli (robotics), and CAB (industrial printers).
The highlight of the application is that all IT and automation resources and the SAP system communicate with each other via OPC UA standardised SOA services, i.e. in a single “order processing language”. All components nevertheless function as separate machine units. The non-proprietary communication is based on OPC UA, which is recommended in the RAMI 4.0 architecture (Reference Architectural Model Industrie 4.0). The autonomous units act as both OPC UA servers and clients. The various machine units are “orchestrated” by SAP Plant Connectivity software, i.e. the services are individually combined for each job.
Close integration of production processes up to the management level
The live demonstration shows the production of a key fob with an integrated smart chip and a personalised top cover. After an order has been entered, the XTS ensures individual and highly dynamical transport and positioning of the key fob for the corresponding processing steps. With TwinCAT as control platform, the XTS is integrated into the service-oriented architecture as a kind of plug-and-produce system. The advantage: Machine modifications or enhancements will not affect the engineering of the interaction, because only the machine’s services are visible at a higher level.