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umati linking the old and the new in “brownfield” Hackathon

Machine tool com­munity work­ing on joint solu­tions aimed at con­nect­ing exist­ing machines.

What is the best way to con­nect old machines to new sys­tems? This was the very ques­tion that spurred umati, the con­nectiv­ity ini­ti­at­ive of the mech­an­ic­al and plant engin­eer­ing industry, to organ­ize a hack­a­thon in cooper­a­tion with the inter­na­tion­al United Grind­ing Group. A total of 30 digit­al­iz­a­tion experts from 17 com­pan­ies atten­ded the net­work­ing event in Steffis­burg, Switzer­land. The main focus of the hack­a­thon was on bring­ing togeth­er experts to enable the exchange of data between exist­ing (so-called brown­field) machine and soft­ware systems.

Dr. Alex­an­der Broos, Head of Research and Tech­no­logy at the VDW (Ger­man Machine Tool Build­ers’ Asso­ci­ation), Frank­furt am Main, and umati pro­ject man­ager, is pleased about the effect­ive con­tinu­ation of the work: “We were able to build on the suc­cess­ful launch in 2022 and also wel­comed many new par­ti­cipants on board. The hack­a­thon has attrac­ted three fur­ther part­ners to the umati com­munity. This shows us that there is still plenty of work to do in bring­ing about the intel­li­gent net­work­ing of machines. More and more experts are recog­niz­ing how we need to col­lab­or­ate across cor­por­ate bound­ar­ies, and which oppor­tun­it­ies umati can offer in achiev­ing our com­mon goal. “Soft­ware archi­tect Timo Barth from Codew­erk, a Karls­ruhe based soft­ware ser­vice and pro­vider par­ti­cip­at­ing in umati, agrees: “It was a use­ful event for us. It was very well organ­ized, mean­ing that we were able to dis­cov­er a great many things related to umati. It also provided an excel­lent oppor­tun­ity to exchange ideas and learn from each oth­er and from the numer­ous experts.”

The par­ti­cipants formed a total of five teams and were able to test the imple­ment­a­tion of OPC UA for Machine Tools for con­nect­ing up older machines. They were sup­por­ted by United Grind­ing Group, Grob-Werke GmbH & Co. KG from Mindel­heim, and Wago GmbH & Co. KG from Minden which provided com­pon­ents for ret­ro­fit­ting. “I found it very inter­est­ing to dis­cov­er more about umati and to under­stand what it actu­ally involves. The chal­lenge remains the same: bridging the gap between the cus­tom­er and the machine, and mak­ing it is as simple as pos­sible to use the data,” says par­ti­cipant Urs Stäheli, Dir­ect­or of Soft­ware Devel­op­ment at grind­ing machine man­u­fac­turer Kel­len­ber­ger from St. Gal­len, Switzerland.

In addi­tion, one of the groups was able to pre-test use of the soon-to-be-avail­able OPC UA for Power Con­sump­tion Man­age­ment Com­pan­ion Spe­cific­a­tion for machine tools, thereby gain­ing valu­able insights that will be fed back into the stand­ard­iz­a­tion pro­cess. The same applies to the par­ti­cipants of the hack­a­thon, as Basti­an Schmick, con­nectiv­ity expert at ifm elec­tron­ic gmbh, Essen, con­firms: “It was def­in­itely worth­while tak­ing part. We were able to deep­en our OPC UA expert­ise and gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the umati eco­sys­tem. We now need to sit down and pro­cess all the dif­fer­ent insights.” Con­trib­ut­ing to the fur­ther devel­op­ment of OPC UA spe­cific­a­tions with prac­tic­al exper­i­ence from the field and also sup­port­ing rap­id imple­ment­a­tion – these are some of the core tasks of umati. Ten mech­an­ic­al and plant engin­eer­ing sub­sect­ors have already joined forces in umati with their own indi­vidu­al OPC UA Com­pan­ion Specifications.

Both organ­izers and par­ti­cipants were more than sat­is­fied with the out­come of the hack­a­thon. “I was impressed by the level of cooper­a­tion between all the par­ti­cipants. It was a won­der­ful mix of hands-on par­ti­cip­a­tion, pool­ing of tech­nic­al exper­i­ence – and fun. The res­ults from the indi­vidu­al work­ing groups showed that umati allows even exist­ing machines to provide stand­ard­ized data. This was a text­book case of turn­ing the­ory into prac­tice,” says Chris­ti­an Josi, Head of Digit­al Engin­eer­ing & Digit­al Solu­tions at United Grind­ing, sum­ming up the hack­a­thon. umati is set to con­tin­ue this series of events in order to drive for­ward the devel­op­ment work and to net­work the industry. The next event is planned to coin­cide with EMO Han­nov­er in Septem­ber 2023.


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