OPC launches OPC Foundation North American certification lab, provides pre-testing tools

May 3, 2011
Certification starts with a downloadable compliance test tool that lets suppliers pre-test their product ahead of time. The final step is shipping the product to an OPC Foundation certification lab—without having to send an engineer.
OPC Foundation has opened the North American certification lab(Scottsdale, AZ) that provides true third party validation of interoperability for any OPC product. The certification process is a benefit of OPC Foundation membership, and as such, is free for members. Designed to be as painless as possible for suppliers while maintaining the rigorous standards necessary for true interoperability, the process starts out when a supplier downloads a compliance test tool that allows the product to be “pre-tested” before it’s shipped to the lab. In the pre-test, the supplier first defines the capabilities of the product. The tool then provides a complete list of items that the product will be tested against. Geared toward the software development engineer, the pre-testing tool includes a complete development environment. If a problem turns up, the tool provides specific feedback on what needs to be fixed or modified to enable compliance. Products that pass the pre-testing tool provide assurance to the manufacturer that the product will pass the actual audit certification in the OPC Foundation’s Arizona lab. OPC borrowed the notion of the pre-testing tool from Profibus International and Fieldbus Foundations, which have successfully used this model for years. Once the product passes the pre-testing, the manufacturer ships the product to the OPC Foundation’s North America lab for the actual testing and compliance audit. An engineer need not accompany the product. All testing and certification is done remotely. In the lab, the product is run through a full suite of tests to verify interoperability.

The lab maintains a growing number of so-called reference products—actual products from other manufacturers that the product can be tested against. Initially consisting of about 15 products—including products from Rockwell, Siemens, and Honeywell—that number is expected to grow. Indeed, as manufacturers send their products to the lab for certification, OPC Foundation will ask if they can leave them with the lab to serve as reference products for future tests.

After OPC Foundation conducts the full interoperability audit, it provides a formal report to the manufacturer of what needs to be changed, if anything, to assure interoperability. Its test lab engineers also provide informal feedback and guidance for maintaining compatibility in the future while ensuring maximum performance of the product.

If a product fails the certification, OPC Foundation works with the supplier to resolve any problems.

Although the lab just opened in April, there are already 28 products in the queue for testing. Testing in the OPC Foundation lab typically takes aless than a week.

Read about a supplier’s experience on what it’s like to go through the testing process, as well as the end-user perspective on how certified components will sharply reduce implementation costs.

For more information about this exciting OPC Foundation member benefit please go to the that www.OPCFoundation.org website.

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