Get to know the digitalization concept of the VDMA Fluid Power Association and its member companies towards Fluid Power 4.0
The digitalization associated with Industry 4.0 and the exchange of data and information across manufacturers leads to a fundamental change in the entire value chain.
Not only the large number of hydraulic and pneumatic components and their application-specific combination options, but also their wide range of possible uses pose particular challenges for fluid power as a supplier industry. In fluid engineering, for example, only a few standardized application scenarios or units with predefined inputs and outputs may be identified.
In order to take account of this diversity in digitization, the VDMA Fluid Power Association and its member companies agreed on a digitization concept that offers maximum flexibility and compatibility with other formats such as OPC UA or Automation ML:
The digital twin and the asset administration shell concept.
Asset Administration Shell
The asset administration shell is the core element of Fluid Power 4.0.
By assigning an asset administration shell to a physical object (asset) a connection to the digital world and I4.0 communication can take place. The spectrum of possible assets is extremely diverse, ranging from components, fluids and seals to subsystems and even entire machines and plants.
As core element, the asset administration shell (AAS) describes and accompanies the fluid engineering object throughout its entire life cycle and thus represents the link between the physical object and its digital image. The term “digital twin” is emblematic for the digital data and information model of the products. In fluid power technology, the digital twin is created in the asset administration shell.
The asset administration shell provides controlled access to all information and functionalities of the object and thus becomes the secure communication interface of Industry 4.0.
Following the basic idea of networked production and operation, asset administration shells should be available at all times, which is why they are primarily stored in the cloud or “on-edge”. Data that accumulates continuously over the lifecycle of an asset – for example, during installation of the component, during internal tests as part of handover documentation, or during operation – can thus be added to or overwritten quickly and easily.
Even so-called passive assets without an internal communication interface can be addressed and read via identifiers attached to or in the device with a connection to the asset administration shell in the cloud (e.g. 2D data matrix code, QR or RFID tag). Thus, there is a uniquely identifiable asset administration shell for each object that always contains its current digital image.
An important prerequisite for the communication and readability of data is a uniform semantics and vocabulary defined in cross-manufacturer and cross-industry standards.
VDMA Fluid Power with its task force and the working group on digitization acts as initiator, organizer and coordinator of the activities with the aim of standardized interoperability.
Information and data of an object are to be understood as properties/attributes (standardized identifiers) with assigned values using a standardized vocabulary and semantics.
Properties require unique IRDIs (International Registration Data Identifiers), which are used in the asset administration shell to uniquely label and identify data. The properties are standardized at ISO and ECLASS, a multilingual consortium standard based in Germany.
Since 2016, up to 40 experts have been working in three ECLASS expert groups on the standardization of the fluid engineering properties. During the process, the digital ECLASS standard is being expanded every year. In the medium term, the aim is also to synchronize Fluid Power 4.0 with the ISO 18582 series of standards “Fluid power – Specification of reference dictionary” in the interests of global standardization and usability.
Specific application scenarios and use cases require different sets of properties. These properties are combined into distinctive submodels (e.g., the digital nameplate) so that machines and people can quickly access the data.
The structure and contents of the submodels are standardized in specifications that are reviewed and published by IDTA (Industrial Digital Twin Association).