OPC UA Makes MTConnect Better

MTConnect is a widely adopted standard for machine tools, robots, and other manufacturing equipment as confirmed at the IMTS show last month. MTConnect was promoted in many of the 2,100+ exhibitor booths including some of the largest exhibitors such as Mazak, Okuma, Fanuc and many more.

The AMT sponsored Emerging Technology Center at IMTS also showed the power of MTConnect. The MTConnect Institute, NIST, Southwest Research Institute, along with Hurco, Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, and VIMANA cooperated to demonstrate a closed-loop, PLC-free cell consisting of a CNC mill, a robotic arm, and a Coordinate Measuring Machine (CMM). Rather than centrally orchestrated control to autonomously load and unload parts, the cell used MTConnect’s functions and logic at each component of the cell. This was the first demonstration with many-to-many orchestration rather than simple one-to-one task management.

The OPC Foundation promoted the MTConnect OPC UA Companion Specification at its IMTS booth and its OPC UA Seminar that was also held at the IMTS show. Matriko, in collaboration with Beeond, Inc. showed off a robot arm demonstration that implemented the MTConnect information model. To create this demo, Beeond wrote a Matrikon-based OPC UA Server that ran on a small NanoPi system and utilized the MTConnect Companion Specification. Visitors could use an iPad running the Matrikon FLEX Explorer for mobile to connect to the OPC UA Server, navigate its MTConnect address sapce, and interact with the robot arm. Especially popular was the option booth visotors had of being able to download the free Matrikon FLEX Explorer to their own iOS and Android phones so they could interact with the robot from their own phones.

The new OPC UA based MTConnect standard elevates the popular MTConnect standard to a new level by enforcing rigorous data security and enabling open data connectivity with the vast range of new OPC UA enabled software applications running on premise and in the cloud. This is important as it opens the doors to new markets for vendors who implement the OPC UA based MTConnect standard in their products.

A new MTConnect – OPC UA Companion Specification is set for release in the coming months. This companion specification will reflect the full scope of the existing non-OPC UA based MTConnect specification and will retain backward compatibility. To learn more about the MTConnect standard or get involved with the OPC UA-MTConnect working group, please contact Stan Brubaker (stan.brubaker@beeond.net) or Tom Copeland (tomc@trakmt.com) who co-chair the joint OPC Foundation and MTConnect Institute working group.