Aerospace and Defense Open Process Automation (OPA) Solutions
Open Process Automation (OPA) technologies and Industrial Internet-of-Things (IoT) platforms allow products from multiple vendors to interoperate in an open architecture environment as a single, cohesive ecosystem, thus enabling increased options for automation and driving competition for delivering future innovation.
OPA technologies enable real-time access to industrial data to reduce downtime and energy consumption, improve safety, efficiency, and more. Major equipment and software suppliers now offer industrial IoT solutions, yet many of these products experience a common weakness in plug-and-play connectivity to equipment for real-time data access and execution of real-time apps, both on-premises and in the cloud and with cybersecure capabilities.
ADI’s ADEPT software continues to prove itself as one of the best solutions for real-time plug-and-play connectivity and OPA for aerospace and defense industrial applications. Not only does ADEPT provide plug-and-play connectivity, real-time data access, and algorithm execution at the edge, but it also provides unmatched computational scalability and efficiency.
History of OPA
The Open Process Automation movement and its technology has grown out of the Open Process Automation™ Forum (OPAF), founded by The Open Group, which looked to lead the development of open, vendor-neutral technology standards and certifications for manufacturing organizations. The OPAF was formed when the founders identified that industrial manufacturers were always under pressure to lower the capital and lifecycle costs of their process control systems while working to improve the profitability of their operations. The concern was that available proprietary control systems were costly to integrate with best-in-class third-party components and expensive to upgrade and maintain. Additionally, most systems generally lacked the intrinsic cybersecurity to defend against growing threats. Enter O-PAS™, the Open Process Automation Standard, or as it has more commonly been referred to, OPA.
OPA for Manufacturing Intelligence
A leading application of OPA involves connecting manufacturing equipment to a real-time edge computing platform to provide machine learning-based monitoring and supervisory control. An advanced manufacturing operation that includes additive manufacturing machines printing parts, mobile collaborative robots (cobots) moving parts to assembly stations, assembly robots combining parts, and humans performing fine assembly tasks, is an ideal candidate for an OPA computing and control solution. OPA edge computing and networks provide connectivity to robots and machines built by various suppliers and allow for:
- Communications between the machines and robots
- Real-time monitoring algorithms to be executed in real-time
- Supervisory control models to coordinate activities between participants in this manufacturing line
Successful implementation of such an OPA solution can deliver increased operational efficiency, lower operating costs and downtime, improve quality and yield, and support the mobile worker.
OPA for Manufacturing End-of-Line Test
Whether it’s an aircraft subsystem or an automobile coming off the assembly line, end-of-line testing is a mission-critical function for manufacturing. Testing needs to move at the pace of the assembly line it’s supporting, and downtime can cripple the entire operation. Traditionally, PLC systems have been the workhorse used to provide real-time control for manufacturing end-of-line test systems. However, PLC computers are necessarily limited in the types of computing functions they can support and are therefore limited in the types of advanced test capability that may be cost-effectively implemented.
OPA is a natural solution for advanced manufacturing end-of-line test where mission-critical OPA edge computing is combined with PLC safety-critical and mission-critical control. OPA edge computing provides high-bandwidth data access, allows supplementary sensors to be easily integrated, and allows machine learning algorithms and other advanced test sequencing and analysis to be integrated at the edge, executing in real-time. The PLC controllers and HMI continue to serve their traditional safety-critical, closed-loop control and safety functions.
Successful implementations of an OPA solution for end-of-line test allow for the incorporation of more sophisticated test automation, improved operator interfaces, advanced or third-party sensors, and data interfaces, and allow for the development of more efficient, more automated, more fault-tolerant, and more capable end-of-line test systems.
OPA for Connected Industrial Test Facilities
Large aerospace and defense test facilities, such as gas turbine engine testbeds, have been early adopters of OPA. These large test facilities perform safety-critical and mission-critical operations involving dozens of disparate pieces of equipment, including specialized data acquisition equipment, data logging servers, numerous PLC systems providing safety-critical control of facility and test equipment operations, test control stations, data-interfacing computers for the unit-under-test, and much more. OPA allows previously unconnected systems to communicate across an industrial Ethernet backbone and operate with plug-and-play connectivity across all relevant systems.
OPA reduces large test facility operating costs by allowing for more automation between multiple systems, providing more comprehensive startup and shutdown checks, reducing startup and shutdown times, reducing overall downtime, allowing a test facility to be operated by fewer operators, and even supporting remote operation where feasible.