|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2011|
|Topic:||M2M in Manufacturing|
Tony Paine is the President and Co-Owner of Kepware Technologies a provider of automation protocols and communications interoperability; he has been pivotal in the architectural development of all the company’s products. Mr Paine represents Kepware in various open standards committees and is currently a member of the Technical Advisory Committee for the OPC Foundation, where he helps to drive the technical direction of the automation industry. Tony Paine has a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maine at Orono.
M2M is used in manufacturing to exchange data between device, control applications and data gathering systems. Manufacturing control architectures are moving towards a more connected manufacturing environment with decentralised automation and M2M let machinery make decisions locally while intelligently communicating crucial data to wherever needed. Wireless communication and embedded systems are driving M2M and its applications are constantly expanding. Budget constraints and leaner manufacturing operations are reducing the number of people manufacturers employ in both discrete manufacturing and process industries.
M2M (machine-to-machine) technology in manufacturing allows for the information exchange and gathering of data between sensors and controllers during collaborative machining process and motion control. In a manufacturing environment, industrial M2M serves an integral component of a much larger and more complex manufacturing infrastructure. Industrial M2M can mean intelligent bi-directional plant floor communications to PLCs (programmable logic controllers) to SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems to MRP (manufacturing resource planning) systems or often ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems. At the very core in any manufacturing facility, M2M is typically the initial component and the infrastructure builds out from there. Prior to M2M in manufacturing, industrial automation used direct wire connections between the sensors, actuators and the controlling PCs. Today, examples of M2M in manufacturing are the analogue sensors used to measure real-world conditions and the process control systems that analyse and control manufacturing processes. Another example would be the control commands – converted to analogue signals – that control actuators. Using standard logic and control hardware, machines today are starting to become modular components. The manufacturer has a lot more choice regarding the options, the machine components, the manufacturer can choose. Cappers, conveyors, loaders or labellers and such can be manufactured and tested separately, then plugged into the completed machine at the customer site. Once the components are installed, M2M comes into play and communicates through the bus connection so each component recognises the others within the overall equipment configuration. Communication between controllers and components typically starts immediately and automatically without additional programming or configuration. A new generation of intelligent, component-based, automated machines and devices is starting to emerge. Industrial M2M will enable distributed intelligence and local control. To help improve a machine’s response times, logic functions are pushed down to the device level to achieve better local control. Local control works well for safety functions such as light curtains and safety doors, eliminating the need for a safety bus. Controllers communicate laterally to other local controllers in sequential manufacturing operations, or send and receive status and command signals from a central controller. Thanks to information technology (IT) advances, manufacturers can deploy low power, low-cost wireless communications. Wireless communications are a desirable alternative to direct wired connections. Low-powered wireless systems enable connections to machines and devices that were difficult to monitor with previous technologies. Today, almost all production facilities around the world use some form of M2M to achieve industrial automation in the manufacturing process. As it stands today, industrial M2M plays a key role in the automation of manufacturing processes that are usually under the control of PLCs. In terms of automation, industrial M2M works with both discrete and continuous manufacturing processes. With continuous manufacturing, it is also called process control. Any M2M for manufacturing needs a focus on connectivity between all the manufacturing operations and all the systems within a given manufacturing facility. OPC (OLE for Process Control; OLE refers to Object Linking and Embedding) and embedded device communications have evolved tremendously in recent years, specifically in the areas of communication drivers for automation controllers, I/O and field devices. Additionally, operating systems that support M2M manufacturing have expanded to include Microsoft Windows desktop, server and embedded (Windows CE and Windows NT/XP Embedded) versions. As part of this M2M in manufacturing initiative, the OPC Foundation plays a crucial role adapting and applying the fundamental standards and technology specifications of the general computing market specifically for manufacturing needs. OPC is known for its open connectivity standards for industrial automation in addition to connectivity to enterprise systems that support industry. The OPC Foundation’s open standards and specifications ensure interoperability for M2M communications in manufacturing. The OPC Foundation’s latest standard OPC-UA. OPC-UA are designed to be platform and operating system independent; they support Windows, Linux, and a variety of embedded operating systems that M2M technology vendors can leverage. The OPC Foundation is developing and managing a standard set of operating system independent communication interfaces (stacks). We expect the OPC-UA will cross into new markets including medical devices and smart grid applications in addition to the manufacturing sector. M2M in manufacturing automation needs to use data more effectively to improve operations and efficiency, so OPC drivers and interoperability technologies need to become more intelligent in acquiring data from equipment. In future systems, data will automatically generate content within the driver to improve how it is used in client applications and how it uses data from the server applications. These systems allow end-users to configure all of the necessary tags for their device automatically at start-up or with the simple press of a button. The OPC Foundation anticipates that their OPC-UA format will unleash a great deal more sophistication in how information is represented, transferred and utilized. Within the last 10 years, OPC has become a widely accepted M2M communication standard in manufacturing. The key benefit to OPC is that enables the exchange of data between multi-vendor devices and control applications without any proprietary restrictions or limitations and make continuous real-time communication possible. OPC uses a distributed client/server architecture. An OPC Server, a software application that acts as an API (application programming interface) or protocol converter, can connect to such devices as remote terminal units, programmable logic controls, supervisory control systems, distributed control systems, etc. Basically it can integrate with any data source such as a database or graphical user interface, and translate that data into a standard-based OPC format. Once translated into an OPC form of communications, it can bi-directionally send M2M device data to an historian, a spreadsheet, a trending application, a human machine interface – any hardware and software from any vendor of OPC compliant applications. The OPC client can display data or send commands but uses the OPC server to retrieve M2M data. Overall plant floor communications networks have been rapidly evolving and now embrace the use of open connecting equipment, such as that meet standard protocols like OPC. Most software vendors simply include OPC client capabilities because it instantly makes them compatible with the thousands of hardware devices typically embedded in manufacturing equipment, machines and controllers. This lets manufacturer choose whichever OPC client software they need, assured that it will communicate seamlessly with their OPC-enabled hardware and vice-versa. One of several major advantages of OPC and how it has affected the M2M market in manufacturing is seen by the increase in collaboration among M2M technology vendors. OPC is helping the industrial M2M market leverage an open communications platform that has given end-users more choices and freedom to develop more sophisticated and robust automation applications. This is an exciting time in the M2M industry; interoperability, open solutions, and choices are paving the way for automation professionals around the world to maximize their M2M investments. Manufacturers and developers alike are supporting M2M manufacturing automation by developing and maintaining communication products according to the OPC Foundation’s OPC specifications. The emergence of such new technologies as wireless communication and embedded systems is driving M2M and its applications are constantly expanding. Budget constraints and leaner manufacturing operations have reduced the number of people manufacturers employ in both discrete manufacturing and process industries. Due to the fact that we have to do more with less, there are greater demands for control architectures that adopt a more connected manufacturing environment and decentralize existing automation and intelligence silos. M2M relies on this decentralization to let machinery make decisions locally while intelligently communicating crucial data to wherever needed