23 Jul 2024


Automation giants join forces to back OPC UA TSN

United behind OPC UA TSN: (from left) Mitsubishi Electric’s Takayuki Tsuzuki, Siemens’ Rainer Brehm, Rockwell Automation’s Paul Brooks, and OPC Foundation president, Stefan Hoppe

Visitors to the recent SPS IPC Drives show in Germany witnessed the remarkable sight of representatives from Siemens, Rockwell Automation and Mitsubishi Electric sharing a stage to endorse a single industrial networking technology ­–  the OPC Foundation’s recently announced version of OPC UA which will use TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) down to the field level.

Almost every major automation manufacturer is now backing the technology, raising the prospect of an end to the decades-long “fieldbus wars” in which competing suppliers have marketed incompatible networking technologies, locking customers into their products.

The list of suppliers that have already committed to supporting the new OPC initiative reads like a Who’s Who of the industrial automation market, and includes ABB, Beckhoff, Bosch Rexroth, B&R, Cisco, Hirschmann, Huawei, Intel, Kalycito, Kuka, Molex, Omron, Phoenix Contact, Pilz, Schneider Electric, Wago and Yokogawa.

“It is amazing how fast the automation suppliers have shown their interest and willingness to contribute to this exciting project which seems to be unique in history of automation,” says OPC Foundation president, Stefan Hoppe. “This clearly shows that standardisation is one of the key drivers for digitalisation and IIoT.”

Following the Foundation’s announcement, workgroups are being created and charters drawn up, with technical work on the new standard expected to start within a couple of months. The Foundation has also contacted several existing fieldbus organisations about working together on the TSN initiative and says it has received “a positive response”. It expects to combine best practices from these organisations for critical functions such as connection management, motion control and safety.

Initial work will focus on developing the core functions of field device communications, a next-generation architecture, and a model for devices that can be adopted easily by different automation suppliers. Extended OPC UA standardisation documents will be published, including test scenarios and certification procedures.

Speaking at SPS, Paul Brook, Rockwell Automation’s business development manager, said that extending the OPC UA protocol to the field level could “help simplify system development and accelerate a company’s journey to the Connected Enterprise.”

Takayuki Tsuzuki, general manager of Mitsubishi Electric’s Factory Automation Systems Division, expressed a belief that “TSN technology will become the mainstream of future industrial networks. Mitsubishi Electric will contribute to the development of the FA industry by actively participating in defining a new standard,” he added.

Rainer Brehm, vice-president of Automation Products and Systems at Siemens, said that “as a founding member of the OPC Foundation and market-leader in industrial automation, we are excited to contribute to this initiative as a strong supporter of OPC UA technology”. However, is a separate statement, Siemens added that “in the end, our customers will decide if and where to use OPC UA technology or Profinet technology for their individual applications”.