Date: 22 April 2021
Under the umati (universal machine technology interface) brand, a working group of the glass technology forum of the VDMA is advancing the development, dissemination, and use of open, inter-company machine interface standards. GLASWELT asked Dr. Klaus Mühlhans of A+W Software exactly what this involves and what the significance of umati is for the OPC UA standard and its dispersion. Dr. Mühlhans leads the VDMA working group together with Dr. Markus Schoisswohl (Hegla).
GLASWELT – Why is the umati standard so important for the flat glass industry? What are the specific benefits for processors and insulated glass manufacturers?
Dr. Klaus Mühlhans – First of all: umati is not essentially an interface standard, but rather the brand for the dissemination and adaptation of the interface standard for mechanical and plant engineering. The umati community is working to make the standards based on the OPC UA (Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture) more visible at trade shows, events, and through demonstrations. Since so many people are working together, this will mean that standards can be established much more quickly. With the underlying standards that are not developed within umati, we want to make machine communication between heterogeneous systems and superior systems fit for the future.
This way, complex production environments will be faster, more digital, and more secure. The standardization of machine interfaces according to the OPC-UA standard for which the VDMA is striving will reduce the set-up work required for these interfaces dramatically.
GLASWELT – What exactly does this mean?
Dr. Klaus Mühlhans – In networked production environments, machines and systems exchange data all the time; with controlling software, with visualization systems, etc. Today, many individual interfaces have to be written for this since most machine parks feature machines from many different manufacturers. This makes a lot of work for all participants and is a true bottleneck for Industry 4.0. What we need is a kind of USB connection that fits everyone on the network. Ideally, in the future, we will be able to network Industry 4.0 production facilities with a kind of plug-and-play system, just as you connect a printer or card reader to your PC. In the OPC UA world, this will be achieved through the "companion specification" interface standards, which we are currently formulating especially for the flat glass industry.
"With umati, we would like to make machine communication between different manufacturers' systems and machines and superior systems fit for the future."
GLASWELT – Is the companion specification for the flat glass industry compatible with companion specifications for other industries?
Dr. Klaus Mühlhans – Wide-ranging cooperation is essential, especially when it comes to interfaces. A majority of the data to be defined or exchanged is universal and should therefore also be uniform.
GLASWELT – What does the umati community mean to A+W?
Dr. Klaus Mühlhans – umati is an interest group that is expressly open to manufacturers and customers in research and industry, for organizations and networks around the world, regardless of their industry. We would like to make our work with the VDMA and especially on the glass-specific companion specification public on a broader level in order to attract market partners who have not previously participated. umati promotes cooperation and makes it visible. That's why we are anticipating broader, longer-lasting acceptance for the specifications we formulate.
GLASWELT – What's the relationship between OPC-UA and umati?
Dr. Klaus Mühlhans – umati was established in order to promote the dissemination of standards based on OPC UA in cooperation with all participants and in particular, to make these known to end users. The OPC Foundation disseminates and maintains OPC UA and offers a basic OPC UA certification. Today, OPC UA is the globally accepted communication technology for industrial data exchange. That's why, in the VDMA working group, we formulated the companion specifications based on OPC UA from the very beginning. With umati, we will achieve better recognition of the specification, as well as of the companies and groups that are working on this common goal.
This interview was first published in German language in the trade journal GLASWELT