OPC UA Safety Release 1.00 released for the specification of the interoperable communication standard for functional safety – OPC UA Safety “Part 15 OPC UA Core Specification.”

OPC UA Safety is based on the black channel principle and currently addresses controller-to-controller communication using OPC UA clients/servers. OPC UA has expanded applications that can be served by the technology. Black channel principle allows transmission of failsafe and standard data via the same network or bus line. Independent of the regular data transport mechanism used on that line, safety components can transmit data using an isolated safe protocol tunneling the underlying network channel.

Safety is the next important part of the OPC UA specification family and is now achievable. OPC UA Safety takes the requirements of modern and future safety technology into account.

While addressing all safety requirements defined in international standards, OPC UA builds on experience from existing safety protocols and addresses new use cases that have emerged since their development.

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In one case, OPC UA Safety supports the assignment of Safety-IDs to series machines and allows for dynamically changing the communication partner during runtime: A prerequisite for modern production processes with batch size 1, where machines or machine parts must be re-grouped frequently.

OPC UA Safety enables the transmission of up to 1,500 bytes of arbitrarily structured data in any network without limiting data rate for applications with a safety integrity level (SIL) of up to 4.

OPC UA Safety was initiated as a joint working group between the OPC Foundation and PROFIBUS & PROFINET International (PI) but has now been merged as a technical working group under the auspices of the Field Level Communication (FLC) initiative.

Manufacturers are on the OPC UA Safety working group which should ensure a uniform, worldwide and coordinated standard for safe communication developed for the first time. OPC UA Safety now becomes a core part of OPC UA specification framework of the OPC Foundation.

The next steps include defining of safety test specification for certification as well as extension to OPC UA Pub/Sub allowing real-time and isochronous real-time applications.

The OPC Foundation invites all its members to participate in a co-funding project to develop a safety layer stack according to the OPC UA Safety specification (SafetyProvider and SafetyConsumer) which can be combined with different underlying communication stacks (client/server and pub/sub mapping).

A service provider will be contracted to perform the implementation and to prepare software, documentation, verification and validation activities to allow a pre-certification of the software by notified bodies (e.g. TÜV).

Each co-funding company will receive unrestricted IP and source code rights on the development. It is planned to put the developed software under a dual license: An open source license for the source code intended for evaluation purposes and a commercial license for the complete safety stack package (source code, verification and validation documentation) which is maintained and supported by one or several service providers.

The development costs will be shared equally between all participating companies.

Timeline for the next steps include:

  • Webinar on March 27
  • Sign-up phase April 17
  • Selection of service provider May 15
  • Implementation work finished by May 31, 2021
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