Training content at MAN
OPC, as a standardized data exchange interface of the industry, is set at MAN and thus naturally flows into the training. The SIMATIC NET OPC server from Siemens used in the company is a training topic, only the question quickly arose as to what the trainees should do with it? They could now set up the OPC server, could access variables, but the functionality of data transfers could not be clarified satisfactorily. Michael Schwojer found an article in “SPS Magazin”, which reported in detail about OPC Router, just in time.
The uncomplicated handling via drag and drop and the comprehensive performance could convince and so OPC Router was scheduled as middleware for several data connections for the training course. As an example, Excel data was transferred and stored in a simple MES system. The Excel data source stands here symbolically for a company server. After the data transfer, this data is further processed by the MES and new data packages are transferred back into the system. “The processes could be implemented immediately by the trainees through the intuitive OPC router and the learning contents modified in this way were enthusiastically accepted.” Michael Schwojer reports.
The educational course at MAN itself lasts two weeks. The trainees are first introduced to the basics of PLC programming, then later to industrial communication via Ethernet and finally to the OPC UA communication standard. The first week is generally about communication between different participants in a network, mostly between different controllers of frequency converters. In the second week, which is more specific to OPC UA, an OPC server is created and set up. The course continues with OPC Router as a data hub and a short introduction to the software. After a short time, the trainees are able to write data into an Excel table and solve different tasks.
From theory to practice
Even more complex examples from previous courses can now be implemented practically. Thus, the realization of a data connection and the exchange of contents of a table via two separate servers and two connected OPC Routers becomes child’s play. But OPC Router is also used in affiliated project weeks of the training to solve practical problems.
In the picture above, OPC Router on the laptop communicates via W-LAN with the OPC UA server and writes the received data into an Excel sheet. In the spreadsheet, the data is processed via a simple calculation for illustration. The result is then written back to the PLC via OPC Router and OPC UA server and output to the HMI panel as a message for the operator.
Experiences and outlooks
Now that OPC Router has been added to the education content, are the learning successes faster compared to the past? Michael Schwojer reports: “You definitely notice the difference. Before, we only created the server and then tried to explain to the trainees what was happening in the background and what the data was actually for. With OPC Router, the trainees could then determine the background events themselves: What should happen how and when with accruing data? The visualization of the work areas such as the data-supplying PLC and the MES, which ultimately evaluates the data, has definitely made the processes and programming simple, fast and clear for the trainees.”
In the future, OPC Router could also be integrated into the robotics teaching course. A robot from which data can be extracted and evaluated live, that could certainly appeal to the future MAN trainees, Schwojer concludes with pleasure.