Global Graphics joins OPC

Global Graphics Software has joined the OPC Foundation, which oversees the development of Open Platform Communications, a series of standards that govern interoperability between industrial systems. 

Eric Worrall, VP of product management for Global Graphics Software.

This includes the exchange of data in the industrial automation space and in other industries, which is covered by OPC UA (for Unified Architecture). The OPC concept dates back to the 1990s and originally grew out of Microsoft’s COM/DCOM process exchange server. The Unified Architecture emerged in 2006 as a more open system tuned to industrial automation and able to deal with everything from smart sensors to mainframes, together with much better security. 

Stefan Hoppe, president and executive director of the OPC Foundation, explained: “OPC UA not only enables seamless secure data transport from the field to the cloud (and back) – an essential aspect is the standardization of the information to be transported, for example, also for the printing industry – we are therefore looking forward to the cooperation of the experts from Global Graphics Software.”

Justin Bailey, Global Graphics Software’s managing director, adds: “The function of print is changing and the OPC UA standard is already in use in industrial environments that want to add print into their processes. Our OEM customers targeting their solutions at the industrial sector will welcome the connectivity potential that our solutions will provide.”

Eric Worrall, VP of products and customer success at Global Graphics Software, argues that in order to achieve mass customisation without pushing up prices, more manufacturers will set up ‘smart factories’ that are able to run production processes entirely autonomously. This will include print subsystems for things such as decoration and labelling and packaging. 

He explains: “Smart factories are required to get the large scale production but with customised products. It’s vital that everything from order processing, through production and order delivery is automated. To maximise the ROI you need the smart factories to be running 24/7. So the smart factory will collect data so it can self-optimize, self-adapt and learn from new conditions in real time. Trained print operators will be replaced with smart factory operators with a much wider scope and less specialist knowledge. Therefore the software needs to become smarter with the specialist knowledge built in.”

Worrall adds: “OPC UA will allow us a standard way to communicate with devices within the production line such as PLCs. It will also allow us to communicate up to SCADA* and HMIs (Human Machine Interface – user interface or dashboard) controlling full production process, not just the printing subsystem. Collecting the data and providing historical analysis will enable innovations like predictive maintenance. We will work with component suppliers to add OPC UA interfaces to electronic components in the print system to allow plug and play integration. We also have versions of our RIP technologies that can be run on Arm platforms and aimed at the Internet of Things. Adding OPC UA connectivity to these IOT solutions will allow standard connectivity and the strong security required for IOT.”

It’s worth noting that there are very few other companies from the print sector amongst the OPC membership, though 3D printer vendors are quite well represented, at least in terms of software development. But it’s inevitable that industrial printing will play a bigger role in manufacturing and that more companies will have to think about merging the printing workflow with the wider manufacturing systems.

You can find more information from globalgraphics.com and from the opcfoundation.org.

*SCADA: Supervisory control and data acquisition is a control system architecture comprising computers, networked data communications and graphical user interfaces.


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