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OPC UA over TSN portfolio ‘makes batch-size-one real’

25 November, 2019

ABB’s Austrian subsidiary B&R Automation is using this month’s SPS show in Germany to launch a slew of products and technologies that support the open, real-time OPC UA over TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) protocol. It says it will be one of the first manufacturers to offer a comprehensive TSN portfolio, including PLCs, bus controllers, Ethernet switches and industrial PCs, and that these components will help to make economical batch-size-one production a reality.

“Vendor-agnostic” OPC UA over TSN networks support plug-and-produce operation and can communicate up to 18 times faster than any previously available protocol, according to B&R. This will open up new possibilities in areas such as tightly synchronised motion and control applications.

OPC UA allows seamless, transparent communications from sensors to the cloud. The TSN extension enables the protocol to converge IT and OT (operational technology) to form a unified network. It supports networks with tens of thousands of nodes and offers bandwidth extensions to the Ethernet standard. Even large volumes of data – such as those needed for intelligent condition monitoring and predictive maintenance – can be handled with ease.

With standardised OPC UA over TSN networks, OEMs will no longer need to offer an array of machine variants with different control and bus systems, B&R predicts. A single interface will exchange standardised data between all the nodes in the network, making machines and plants easier to develop and operate.

B&R's Automation Studio engineering software can be used to configure OPC UA over TSN devices and networks, as well as assigning access rights. The configuration takes place automatically, with ready-made software blocks minimising the amount of programming involved when developing modular machines. Drives, controllers and other devices from different manufacturers can be connected without additional overheads. Rather than writing code, developers will simply set a few parameters, according to B&R.

B&R claims that it now has one of the most comprehensive OPC UA over TSN portfolios

One item in the company’s new OPC UA over TSN portfolio is a real-time Ethernet switch which supports cycle times of less than 50µs. It has four real-time-capable TSN ports and one Ethernet port – to connect displays, for example. The switch opens up the possibility of star, tree or ring topologies, as well as daisy-chaining. Multiple switches can be cascaded to reach remote cabinets or to implement large, complex real-time networks. Non-TSN nodes can be incorporated into a network via the switch.

The switch is configured automatically and supports a centralised approach to hardware and software management. Application development and machine-specific configurations can be performed on- or off-line. The TSN switch can also be used as a conventional unmanaged switch for non-real-time networks.

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