umati: How a machine language can make the smart factory possible
The new, open standard "umati" is meant to unify the communication of all machines. Its important unique selling point: The interface is free for all manufacturers and every product. This enables companies to rely on less fragmented solutions and to enormously reduce the turnaround time in production, as the collaboration of many different elements takes place much faster.
The logo of the new machine code language.
The basis of umati comes from the OPC Foundation. The "Open Platform Communications Foundation", which has been promoting the open standardisation of a variety of machine languages for years now, is a valued institution in the industry. Since 2017, umati itself has been in development. As early as 2019, the German Engineering Federation (VDMA) presented a functioning application with 110 different machines, which were connected to a total of 28 different software services. The interface standard is meant to allow scalable, system-independent and secure communication between machines right up to the cloud. Andreas Faath, project manager for machine communication, explains the standard as follows: "With the OPC UA Companion Specifications, we create a universal remote control.“
Working groups for dozens of application scenarios
VDMA, in cooperation with the German Machine Tool Builders' Association (VDW), has directly set up several working groups that deal with a wide range of specifications and requirements in order to present the diversity of OPC UA. This project has already exceeded the critical mass: VDMA expects approximately 15 spin-offs per year in the working groups. At the same time, Germany, as a development and business location, will play a major role in the distribution of a general standard. Amongst others, the umati working groups were founded in the following categories:
Compressed air technology
Industrial image processing
Cranes and hoist equipment
Metallurgy in general
Mining / Open cast mining
The numerous teams are responsible for creating the necessary specifications (Companion Specifications). Previously, there were numerous interfaces in almost every area, but these almost never extended beyond the individual product. The gathering of all important commands to one standard relieves the development, maintenance and training of new personnel. The more than 400 contributors include, amongst others, ABB, Bosch, Festo, Mitsubishi, Liebherr, Trumpf, Siemens, Wittenstein and many other companies.
Which tasks can umati take over? This graphic shows some fields of application.
First devices with new standard as of 2020
By the second half of this year, the first off-the-shelf machines, which are able to fluently interpret umati, are expected to be up and running. At that time, working environments can be converted step by step. Due to the numerous contributing companies, the chances are good to have created a real standard and not another isolated solution. At the same time, the first specifications are already available in a database provided by VDMA.
In order to get to know the system in advance, a test instance is offered on the umati homepage. Here dummy machines work together to visualise the connection between different devices. Furthermore, numerous guidelines are provided for the introduction of umati. "Industry 3.0 - Communication with OPC UA" represents a comprehensive basic work, which explains the technical basics behind the standard and facilitates the initial setup with checklists.
umati: related online resources
To make it easier for you to get started, we have collected some important links to technical specifications and initial setup.