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Beckhoff releases TwinCAT OPC UA

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As one of the first manufacturers, Beckhoff will present an implementation of the new OPC UA specification in their PC-based controllers at SPS/IPC/DRIVES 2006 in Nuremberg/Germany. The existing OPC technology was based on the Microsoft COM/DCOM model and was therefore limited to Microsoft-based operating systems. The new OPC UA (Unified Architecture) standard is based on TCP communication and is therefore platform-independent.

The first European OPC UA conference took place in October 2006 in Munich. In front of an audience of 250 international delegates, the OPC UA team presented the technical details of the new UA technology and introduced migration paths for previously COM-based OPC servers.

Just one month later, Beckhoff will present a live demonstration of an OPC UA server at SPS/IPC/DRIVES. It is implemented on a CX1020 Embedded PC. A further advantage in addition to platform independence is that only minimum OPC configuration is required in networks: direct UA TCP communication is available as soon as a PLC is available in the network. In addition to standardised exchange of PLC process data, the UA solution from Beckhoff now also offers device-specific information and services.

OPC UA technology

OPC is an established and recognised standard for data exchange between control and HMI in manufacturing and process automation. The new unified architecture specification creates the basis for a new platform-independent communication and information technology. The possible application right up to the MES and ERP levels results in new challenges in terms of scalability, network capability, platform independence and security.

A team of OPC specialists dealing with the implementation of the new requirements in an advanced standard had already been formed at the end of 2003. The result is the OPC UA Base Service lean transport layer, which only offers a few basic generic services for higher-level OPC devices. Two different communication routes are available. The web service for HTTP enables communication via the standard Internet route. For significantly higher performance, communication can be achieved via the TCP and UA TCP port (port 4840). The type of data transmission can also be differentiated: Data can be sent as XML or binary data. Higher-level information layers describe the type of information that can be transported. Examples are OPC information models such as DataAccess, Alarm&Event, HistoricalData and Command. Further information models can be added.

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