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Field Level Communications Corner – Mar 2024

    FLC Phase 2 – Call for Participation

    The FLC (Field Level Communications) Initiative is in the process of launching a second project phase as completion of the Controller-to-Controller (C2C) Minimum Viable System (MVS) approaches. The FLC Initiative’s Project Phase 2 will focus on the Controller-to-Device (C2D) use case, and will operate for a term of 4 years. Based on the already released OPC UA Field eXchange (FX) specifications, corresponding extensions for the various applications and use cases in factory and process automation will be developed, including standardized information models and behaviors for motion devices, field instruments and decentralized I/Os. The technical work and the related marketing activities will continue to be coordinated by the FLC Initiative’s Steering Committee. Members of the Steering Committee support the initiative financially as well as with man-power and technical know-how. The technical working groups of the FLC initiative will continue to be open to all paying OPC Foundation member companies.

    OPC Foundation members (except logo members) that are interested to join the FLC Steering Committee and would like to receive further information can contact Peter Lutz, FLC Director, peter.lutz[AT] The deadline to sign-up for the FLC Initiative’s Steering Committee is April 30, 2024.

    OPC UA FX Plugfest

    The OPC UA FX Plugfest of the OPC Foundation’s FLC Prototyping Working Group under the leadership of Jan Murzyn (Mitsubishi Electric) has been hosted by company Beckhoff Automation on February 26-29, 2024 in their facility in Berlin. The aim of this event was to test the various UAFX controller prototype implementations, including UAFX Connection Manager and UAFX connection setup, implementation of UAFX information models & behaviors, such as Automation Component, Functional Entity, connectivity & cross-vendor interoperability of the different Automation Components via PubSub UADP, this time in particular the exchange of structured data types, plus the testing of PubSub Security. Furthermore, UAFX offline descriptors based on the AML (AutomationML) exchange format and the integration of models via NodeSet-Xml and UA Binary were verified. Additional UAFX IOPs are planned for the upcoming months and will be used to test more complex connection configurations, diagnostics for the Connection Manager and enhanced testing of UAFX configurations via offline descriptors.

    Special thanks to all participants (onsite or remote) from the companies Mitsubishi Electric, Unified Automation, Beckhoff Automation, Schneider Electric, and Siemens, plus representatives from the OPC Foundation.

    OPC UA FX Specification V 1.00.02 Released

    In early February, the OPC Foundation has released version 1.00.02 of the OPC UA FX specifications. This release consists of the previously unpublished UAFX Specification Part 10000-83 (UAFX Offline Engineering) and revisions of the already released UAFX Specification Parts 10000-81 (UAFX Connecting Devices and Information Model), 10000-82 (UAFX Networking) and 10000-84 (UAFX Profiles). The new UAFX Specification Part 10000-83 defines the offline engineering workflow for UAFX, including a standardized, secure file structure for sharing UAFX application information between offline engineering participants called a Descriptor. The specification includes the Descriptor file structure, the UAFX Information Model Object mapping to AutomationML Libraries, Digital Signatures, and requirements for engineering tools that use Descriptors.

    New Working Group to Specify an I/O Device Profile for OPC UA FX Launched

    The OPC Foundation has launched a new working group to develop an I/O Device Profile for OPC UA and the extensions for the field level, named OPC UA FX (Field eXchange). The group aims to create a standardized profile for I/O devices used in industrial automation applications, allowing for seamless interoperability between controllers, such as PLC and DCS systems, and remote I/O devices, including modular I/Os. More than 50 experts from more than 30 member companies of the OPC Foundation have signed up for the kick-off meeting of this new working group which is led by Rosh Sreedharan (Rockwell Automation) and Mark Nixon (Emerson) as working group chairs. In order to achieve inter-vendor interoperability of I/O devices, the working group will add to the UAFX base specifications the definition of interfaces and behaviors which are typical for I/O devices. The new I/O device profile will use PubSub and can be combined with different underlying communication protocols (e.g. UDP/IP or Raw Ethernet) and physical layers (e.g. Ethernet-APL) to support all relevant use cases in discrete and process manufacturing, including Safety I/Os based on OPC UA Safety and deterministic data exchange based on Ethernet Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN), where appropriate. The working group will also strive to manage overlap with other information models already released or under development. Examples include the models for Motion and Instrumentation.


    OPC UA FX Controller-to-Controller Interoperability Demo Celebrates Premiere in Japan

    At this year’s IIFES (Innovative Industry Fair for E x E Solutions, formerly System Control Fair) show  in Tokyo (Japan), January 31 – February 2, 2024, the OPC Foundation showcased for the first time a multivendor UAFX-based interoperability demonstration which is comprised of controllers and network switches from nineteen manufacturers, including ABB, Beckhoff, Bosch Rexroth, B&R, Emerson, Festo, Hirschmann/Belden, Huawei, Keba, Lenze, Mitsubishi Electric, Moxa, Omron, Phoenix Contact, Rockwell Automation, Schneider Electric, Siemens, Unified Automation and Yokogawa.

    The demonstration showcased horizontal communication between 3rd party controllers, i.e., controller-to-controller (C2C) communications. Utilizing the UAFX extensions, the controllers exchange cyclic process data using UAFX Connections and PubSub mechanisms via UDP/IP over wired Ethernet and Ethernet TSN switches. The UAFX connections between the UAFX controller prototypes utilize UAFX Publisher and UAFX Subscriber functionality, which are configured via built-in or stand-alone UAFX Connection Managers provided by Mitsubishi Electric, Schneider Electric, Siemens and Unified Automation. The controllers in this demonstration are monitored in real time via a central dashboard, which visualizes the status, selected process data, and other information from the UAFX asset information model for each automation component.