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Early Adoption of Administration Shell Based on OPC UA


    WITTENSTEIN develops mechatronic drive technology for highly dynamic motion, maximum-precise positioning and smart manufacturing solutions. In combination with sensors, data-driven-services and an increasing network integration, drive solutions are becoming even smarter and drive manufacturers, machine builders and plant operators will leverage synergies, increase efficiency and create added value out of that.

    Within the usage phase OPC UA has certainly emerged as the standard for cross-platform, interoperable and secure data exchange. For example, WITTENSTEIN uses the OPC UA Companion Specification for IO-Link to integrate the smart gearbox “cynapse” in modern machine infrastructures. WITTENSTEIN is also involved in creating the OPC UA Companion Specification for a drive system that includes the motor starter, complete drive module, electric motor and the transmission elements.

    As a further core component of the digitization strategy, WITTENSTEIN has started equipping its smart products with globally unique identifiers and digital twins, based on the technology neutral and manufacturer-independent Industrie 4.0 Asset Administration Shell. With the Industrie 4.0 Asset Administration Shell it is possible to exchange valuable product data along the product life cycle and across IT-Systems – from planning and manufacturing, to commissioning and integration, and finally the use in the production system.

    At WITTENSTEIN, a first use case for the Asset Administration Shell was to collect and provide basic technical product information, which are not stored on the smart product itself. For this purpose, Asset Administration Shells were created and stored in an online cloud repository. Via a HTTP REST API, data-driven Services from industrial PCs and IIoT-Platforms could easily be parametrized and the manual effort for data maintenance was reduced. For example, the condition monitoring service uses the maximum rotation speed and maximum allowed housing temperature to compare these with field data from sensors and control systems.

    The technological mapping between the Industrie 4.0 Asset Administration Shell and OPC UA opens up new possibilities for smart products and data-driven services in the usage phase. The already existing digital twin is now able to function as an OPC UA Server, which easily provides further product information, methods and basic OPC UA services.

    In an innovation prototype, WITTENSTEIN implemented the Asset Administration Shell in a Docker Container with offline-capabilities and equipped it with an OPC UA interface. The digital twin from the online repository can now be downloaded and integrated into machines with well-known technologies. Furthermore, the service can gather field data from products and data-driven services and bring them together in the digital twin. In future development stages, the Asset Administration Shell is intended to manage further aspects and additional methods to enrich smart product functionalities.

    For the implementation, the open source projects AASX Server and AASX Package Explorer are used. Both are available at GitHub: Right now, further groups are currently working on prototypes of the Industrie 4.0 Asset Administration Shell based on OPC UA. The OPC Foundation aspires to define and harmonize the Industrie 4.0 Asset Administration Shell (I4AAS) technically as “OPC UA companion specification I4AAS”.