specialist journalist from Erfurt
With application-tailored implementation of the umati
interface for the machine tool sector, since 2017 clear
contents and technical key data for translation into
hands-on reality have been drawn up. What this means
specifically, and what visitors can expect to see at the EMO
Hannover, are explained by three experts: Götz Görisch is
responsible at the VDW for the field of digitisation and
Industry 4.0, and is Chairman of the umati Joint Working
Group. Bernd Zapf is responsible for Development New
Business & Technology at Gebr. Heller Maschinenfabrik GmbH
in Nürtingen, while Andreas Wohlfeld is Lead Architect Smart
Factory at Trumpf GmbH + Co. KG in Ditzingen, and heads the
modelling group of the umati Joint Working Group.
Interview part 1
- Why did the companies and the VDW initiate umati?
Following a workshop in the VDW themed around the
issues of Industry 4.0, held in early 2017, it clearly
emerged that things were definitely moving in terms of
standardisation. After some market research, however, it
also became clear that for the machine tool sector none of
the proposals involved was usable. On occasion, standards
had already been agreed between machine tool manufacturers
and customers from the automotive industry, but only on a
bilateral basis. This meant that very extensive resources in
the companies were channelled into developing and
maintaining the various customer implementations concerned.
The intention is for the global interface umati to replace
these, thus also creating capacities for developing new
functions with customer benefits.
- Why has OPC UA been chosen as the communication standard?
This question was very intensively discussed and
examined during the initial months of the project in 2017.
In the past two to three years, OPC UA has been experiencing
a veritable boom, and is tacitly acknowledged as the
standard in industrial communication. OPC UA utilises
internet technologies and protocols. Basically, it specifies
how communication is handled. At the same time, sectorally
specific expertise enables users to define, in what are
called Companion specifications, the details of what is
communicated. This means: the specifications provide a kind
of sectorally specific dictionary.
- Why is standardisation not being performed at other
organisations, like ISO or IEC?
OPC UA, as a fundamental specification, is already
an IEC Standard (IEC 62541), meaning a standard published by
the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The
Companion specifications are at present still so
development-intensive, and are so urgently required, that
traditional standardisation procedures are not fit for
purpose here. As soon as the Companion specifications have
stabilised, the long-term aim is to adopt them in IEC/ISO
Standards. The VDW is here already actively involved in the
preparatory work in ISO/TC 184 – a body at the ISO (International
Standardisation Organisation) that draws up standards in the
field of Automation Systems and Integration. In the shape of
OPC UA, the basic implementations with the corresponding
tools are already available, whereas in a normal
standardisation process lasting three to five years in the
end you still don’t have any implementations with the
- How does the Showcase function?
The Showcase at the EMO Hannover 2019 demonstrates
that machines from different manufacturers featuring umati
can be securely, seamlessly and effortlessly connected to
the customer’s IT systems. For this purpose, we have
published a simplified version of the umati Companion
specification’s draft, with the aim of reducing the amount
of implementation work at the individual participants
involved. The machines connect themselves to an aggregation
server, which at companies is typically installed on the
shop-floor level. On this server, the data from all machines
are grouped together and made available to an OPC UA client
in the destination application. Since we as the VDW cannot
build a democase of this kind for the fair all by ourselves,
we are being assisted by T-Systems. At the same time, many
clients (applications) will link up to this server, a
special feature, since most participants also themselves
possess a digital product for utilising the data. In
addition, we have brought on board relevant added-value
service providers like Adamos or Symmedia for participation.
- How extensive is the Showcase’s data record?
For the demonstration scenario, we took the draft
version of the Companion specification, and defined a
typical machine tool. This reduces the implementation work
involved for the manufacturers concerned, and the scenario
contains everything that has already been defined in the
standardisation work. The data enable most of the ten use
cases specified for the first version to be handled –
focused on the machine chosen for the Showcase.
- When is the standard scheduled for completion and
If it were up to me, before the end of this year.
However, we still have a lot of consultation work ahead of
us, and at the same time, after submitting the release
candidate to the OPC Foundation we have deadlines to comply
with for comments and objections. So a realistic date for
publication is early 2020. Which doesn’t mean that initial
implementations can’t already be deployed. Always against
the background, however, that modifications can and must be
- When can actual products be anticipated?
I am confident that the machine tool manufacturers
will at the EMO Hannover be discussing with their
development customers initial specific pilot implementations.
The delivery times involved, however, will indubitably
extend into next year. At the same time, the requisite
testing and certification preconditions have to be put in
place by the umati project team – with a view to dependable
quality. And not least, the umati product for machine tools
and software products has to be given its final description.
Against this background, I would assume we’ll be seeing the
first products next year.
Interview part 2
How the machine tool manufacturers Trumpf and Heller are
contributing to the umati Showcase in Hanover is explained
by Bernd Zapf and Andreas Wohlfeld.
- What is your company’s input for the Showcase at the EMO
Heller will at the fair be providing a total of four
data suppliers featuring the EMO umati data model: one
five-axis machine on the Heller stand, two training machines,
of which one will be exhibited on the VDW’s stand, and
another five-axis machine that is installed at Heller’s
production facility in Nürtingen. These machines will
provide the data for the Showcase. In addition, Heller is a
member in the VDW’s Core Group for designing and trialling
the umati interface and for liaising with Siemens.
We shall be connecting individual machines to the
data hub as a showcase for the fair. Trumpf is, for instance,
providing the VDW with a connected marking laser. Besides
the machines in the Showcase, we are supporting the VDW’s
umati-themed events in our role as a member of the VDW’s
core group and the modelling group of the Joint Working
Group. We are thus underlining our declared aspiration: it
was important to the umati group to opt for a technology
that offers maximised benefits for the new interface. Thanks
to semantic self-description of the data in the information
models, the data are not only structured, but provided with
meanings, and thus significantly upgraded. And not least OPC
UA is the standard chosen for communication in the framework
architecture for industry 4.0 (RAMI4.0).
- What’s the status of the standardisation work for your
The standardisation work is very elaborate, complex
and time-consuming. Numerous opinions have to be obtained
from different companies. Basically, what’s needed is
abundant willingness to compromise on the part of everyone
involved. Furthermore, an up-to-the-future data record is
being developed, which takes time and necessitates a lot of
experience. From Heller’s viewpoint, the current modelling
status covers about 90 per cent of our requirements.
Trumpf has for several years now had its own
in-house standard in terms of OPC UA. We see umati as the
next logical step on the path leading to the
cross-manufacturer smart factory. We’re working hard on this.
Approval of the companion specification by OPC Foundation
Products is the next major objective. We should then also be
able to put products on the market. Among the vendors, the
standard will be successively disseminated. The tempo here
essentially depends on how quickly they integrate the
standard in their products.
- What specific pilot projects can be demonstrated at the
Heller will be demonstrating at the EMO, with
the machines connected, the entire EMO umati data record. In
our estimation, this already covers about 40 per cent of the
final data record. We supply this data record with MDA/PDA
signals from our present MDA/PDA interface, and in addition
have more signals available which we have so far not been
able to deploy. These will be contributed by the umati
interface. We will thus in future be creating a link from
the present MDA/PDA interface at our machines to the new and
future requirements. This can, for example, be the
acquisition of machine status conditions.
At the EMO, we shall in the framework of
the showcase be exhibiting a pilot with the Trumpf machine
apps, which among other things visualises the machine status.
From 16 to 21 September 2019, international manufacturers of
production technology will be spotlighting smart engineering
at the EMO Hannover 2019. Under the motto of “Smart
technologies driving tomorrow’s production!”, the world’s
premier trade fair for the metalworking industry will be
showcasing the entire bandwidth of modern-day metalworking
technology, which is the heart of every industrial
production process. The fair will be presenting the latest
machines, plus efficient technical solutions,
product-supportive services, sustainability in the
production process, and much, much more. The principal focus
of the EMO Hannover is on metal-cutting and forming machine
tools, production systems, high-precision tools, automated
material flows, computer technology, industrial electronics
and accessories. The trade visitors to the EMO come from all
major sectors of industry, such as machinery and plant
manufacturers, the automotive industry and its component
suppliers, the aerospace sector, precision mechanics and
optics, shipbuilding, medical technology, tool and die
manufacture, steel and lightweight construction. The EMO
Hannover is the world’s most important international meeting
point for production technology specialists from all over
the planet. The EMO Hannover 2017 attracted almost 2,230
exhibitors from 44 different countries, and around 130,000
trade visitors from 160 nations. EMO is a registered
trademark of the European Association of the Machine Tool