Networking is the central trend in the organisation of production processes in many different industries, including the plastic processing and die-casting industry. One of the core elements of the Smart Factory is that data is collected, evaluated, related, documented and visualised throughout the entire production process. This first requires the assurance that all relevant machinery, appliances and systems are communicating with one another at all levels. And this requires a corresponding network. Secondly, the core concept of digitalisation is the transmission of machinery data collected within the network to the higher-level IT system (Manufacturing Execution System/ MES, Enterprise Resource Planning/ ERP, Production Planning System/ PPS …). The Smart Factory is part of the future in the context of Industry 4.0. It defines the vision of an autonomous production environment in which production systems and logistics systems are self-organising, without human intervention.
All peripheral machines, appliances and systems involved in the production process communicate with one another. This enables real-time process optimisations leading to higher productivity, reduced downtime, optimised machine capacity and improved product quality.
OPC UA provides the automation technology sector with an industry-wide "global language", standardising data exchange between machinery, appliances and systems as well as general industrial communication and – in the terms of Industry 4.0 – enabling interoperability between products from different manufacturers. This applies not only to machinery, appliances and systems but also to the components, e.g. sensors and valves built into the machinery and appliances.
"OPC UA" (Unified Architecture) is a defined standard for data exchange as an open-platform, service-orientated architecture. Open Platform Communications (OPC) has the ability not only to handle machine data (control variables, measured values, parameters etc.) but also to describe that data semantically in machine-readable form.
The European plastic processing machinery association EUROMAP has already devised and defined standards for the integration of peripherals such as handling systems (EUROMAP 79), hot runner devices (EUROMAP 82.2) and temperature control units (EUROMAP 82.1) according to OPC UA. There is also a EUROMAP standard for interfaces with higher-level process control systems e.g. MES systems (EUROMAP 77). Further standards will follow in other sectors, e.g. high-pressure die casting.
Regloplas temperature control units use the Euromap 82.1 specification, which has also been published as the VDMA 40082-1 specification. Other data models are also available as standalone appliances, such as for distributors (multiFlow).