MTConnect is a royalty-free communications standard that can be implemented by equipment manufacturers as the common language to be used across other equipment and software applications. The standard uses a well-defined data model that is presented in XML format over HTTP.

History of MTConnect

MTConnect dates back to 2006, when the Association for Manufacturing Technology (AMT) proposed a solution to meet the demand for an open, royalty-free communication standard in manufacturing equipment. In 2008, the initial standard was released and enabled different types of machinery to share data with computer systems using XML-based messages. With the guidance of the MTConnect Institute, the standard has since evolved to include new features and functionality, making MTConnect a viable solution for enabling the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and is now widely used in manufacturing facilities around the world.

Benefits of MTConnect

Machine connectivity

Provides a standardized method for off-the-shelf software and machinery to communicate without needing to develop customized interfaces. This reduces integration costs and increases time to value.

Reduced downtime

Reduces unplanned downtime and equipment failure by monitoring and analyzing assets in real time.

Improved quality control

Maximizes performance without sacrificing quality. Quality issues can be identified as they occur, and corrective actions can be put in place to minimize scrap.

MTConnect client driver for KEPServerEX

Kepware implements the MTConnect standard in our MTConnect Client driver. The MTConnect Client is responsible for connecting to an MTConnect agent and retrieving machine data. The XML machine data payloads are returned using HTTP from the MTConnect agent and the data items are parsed into Kepware tag objects and shared with clients and plug-ins.

Driver features

Kepware’s MTConnect client driver for KEPServerEX is a communications interface to MTConnect-compliant agent applications. Kepware Server’s extensive library of communication protocols and client interfaces make MTConnect data available to users. MTConnect is an open standard for linking shop floor technologies that further the automation industry’s goal of seamless manufacturing operation.

Kepware Server is designed to accommodate organizations’ evolving communication demands. The MTConnect standard XML and internet protocol technologies provide managers with a factory’s real-time data. This provides users with the opportunity to develop more efficient operations, improve production optimization, and increase productivity.

Supports MTConnect v1.1-1.6 and 2.0 with XML 1.0 schema validation enabled or disabled

Supports MTConnect v1.7 and 1.8 with schema validation disabled

Command support:

  • Probe: Utilized for automatic tag generation
  • Current: Current value of a data item

Support for 256 unique communication channels

Support for 256 MTConnect agents per channel

MTConnect data item sets:

  • Event
  • Condition
  • Sample
  • Stream

Automatic device/agent discovery

Automatic tag generation

Automatic device demotion

Frequently asked questions

What is an MTConnect agent?

An MTConnect agent is software that acts as a bridge between manufacturing equipment to generate data and the software applications that consume data. The raw data from the equipment is normalized by the agent and converted into a structured format before it is served to other specialized applications that monitor and analyze the information.

What is the difference between MTConnect and OPC UA?

MTConnect and OPC UA are communication standards commonly used in manufacturing. OPC UA is a specification framework that can be used to build many different protocols, whereas MTConnect is itself a protocol. For this reason, comparing the two becomes tricky, so for this discussion we will compare the OPC UA data access protocol with the MTConnect protocol.

While OPC UA has a more general reach, MTConnect is often found in, but not limited to, environments where CNC machines are part of the manufacturing process. Both protocols were designed to support human-readable XML payloads. However, OPC UA is more commonly used in its binary format. One key difference is that MTConnect is a read-only protocol, whereas OPC UA allows for reading and writing of data points found on the manufacturing equipment.

What is the difference between an MTConnect adaptor and agent?

In an MTConnect implementation, there are three software components: adapter (as required), agent, and client.

The optional MTConnect adapter converts low-level data into a plain-text, pipe-delimited string format expected by the agent. The agent consumes the string, parsing at delimiters, and places the parsed values into a previously configured XML structure.

How is MTConnect installed?

When a machine implements MTConnect, the machine vendor or a third party provides the MTConnect agent, and if necessary, an MTConnect adapter to convert low-level signals into high-level string representations to be consumed by the agent. The MTConnect client then interrogates the agent using HTTP to retrieve machine data like status codes and set point. The machine data is rendered in an XML structure by the MTConnect agent. The MTConnect client consumes the XML structure, making use of the included information as needed.

In Kepware, each unique element of the provided XML structure is parsed into an atomic tag, like integers, floating points, strings, and Booleans, and the data distributed to the clients and plug-ins requesting it.

MTConnect best practices

Multiple channels connecting to a single agent is possible and depends on the agent’s capabilities. Using multiple channels to connect to a single agent and spreading your complete tag load across the two connections may increase aggregate read performance.

When tuning for optimal performance, users should consider three properties located in Device Properties > Settings:

  • “Close Agent Connection After Each Request;” default is enabled and closing/reopening after each request may arbitrarily decrease performance.
  • “Read All Items in a Single Request;” default is set to enable, but if only a small subset of data from the agent is desired, users might experience better performance by setting to disable and adjusting the Items Per Request option to match the desired tag count.
  • “Schema Tag Validation;” default is enabled, and for certain reasons, including initial integration and testing, it can be useful to disable. This will stop the driver from invalidating MTConnect agent responses that have data items included that do not match the preinstalled set of MTConnect XML schema files available to the driver. Validation can be optionally reenabled after matching schemas are provided to the driver. See the driver Help file for location of the driver’s schema file directory.