Robert Gerhardt | Dreamstime
Data sharing for shop floor devices.

Data Sharing Advances with New Version of MTConnect

June 8, 2022
Still free, Version 2.0 of the open protocol adopts a model-based standard for data exchange – a first in global manufacturing technology.

Before there was an Industrial Internet of Things or Industry 4.0… before there was talk of ‘digitalization’ and ‘Smart’ manufacturing, there was MTConnect. First released in 2008, MTConnect was the first open-source, interoperability standard for controls, devices, and software exchanging manufacturing data, and it made it possible to share information among machines and organizations.

MTConnect is still here of course, still free and still connecting shop-floor equipment and software – and it’s growing up. What started with a with some data scientists’ 2006 lecture to AMT – the Assn. of Manufacturing Technology has progressed to a second generation in 2022.

The MTConnect Institute, the organization that oversees development and maintains the MTConnect standard, this week released MTConnect Version 2.0, a significant advance for the open machining standard. Version 2.0 supports semantics for discrete manufacturing and “is a significant advancement from previous versions,” according to an AMT announcement.

Starting with V2.0, the MTConnect information model is provided in SysML using an XMI Model Interchange (XMI) file rather than text documents. The benefits of a model-based standard over a text-based one include:
  Information can be cross-referenced to reduce duplication and increase usability Integrated relations and searches across all sections;
  The machine-readable model allows direct and automated interpretation by software systems;
  The SysML model can represent all constraints and relationships and verify information using automated tools.

What’s included in V2.0

The release package includes:
  The normative canonical MTConnect data model as XMI SysML web portal with searchable index;
  Schema files as XML and JSON;
  PDF text documents generated from the normative XMI.

Version 2.0 also includes these components and data items:
  ◦  Maintenance;
  ◦  Parts and processes;
  ◦  Operational modes for various systems and components;
  ◦  Support for recipes in heat-treat and other PLC-based equipment Initial support for fixtures;
  ◦  Part counts.

The MTConnect standard is produced and maintained by manufacturing industry volunteers working through the MTConnect Institute Standards Committee (SC) and its working groups. In addition to new data items, Version 2.0 saw the first normative SysML model with XML Model Interchange (XMI) available for integration into applications and development workflows.

The MTConnect Institute also made significant enhancements to the MTConnect Agent for this release. The Agent is a rewrite of the previous version, using a modern HTTP server and pluggable architecture. The new Agent features are:
  Support for TLS and certificates for encryption and authentication;
  Extensible plug-in architecture for incoming and outgoing protocols and data transformations;
  Third-party plug-ins include OPC UA MTConnect Companion Spec, NC- Link, Kafka, Influx-Db, and OPC UA and MQTT data sources;
  Embedded mruby scripting engine for dynamic transformation Agent-to-agent replication and aggregation
  Full-featured HTTPS server for static files with compression;
  Digital-twin three.js-based visualization demo included

MTConnect Institute president Doug Woods said,

“This is a huge accomplishment for our SC members, as this is the first of its kind in our global manufacturing technology industry,” according to MTConnect Institute president Doug Woods. “Keeping pace with the rate of current tech advancement is critical and will continue to accelerate MTConnect development cycles, and better support industrial scalability by optimizing standards harmonization.”