Using XML With MTConnect

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This document provides a guideline and definitions for using XML in conjunction with the MTConnect Standard.

XML Document
A text based document generated from a data source in a specific format that can be interpreted by a software application. The basic structure of the document is defined by the XML specification and contains one or more XML Elements. The content of the document is defined by an XML Schema.

The content of the MTConnect XML document is specified in the MTConnect standard and encoded in the XML schema. The MTConnect standard defines four XML document types as follows: MTConnectDevices, MTConnectStreams, MTConnectAssets, and MTConnectErrors.

XML Element
The basic building block of an XML Document. A logical expression of information to be communicated from a data source. The definition of each XML Element is specified in a XML Schema.

Note: An XML Element begins with a start-tag and ends with a matching end-tag or consists only of an empty-element tag. The characters between the start- and end-tags, if any, are the element's content, and may contain markup, including other elements, which are called child elements.

An element can contain:

  • other elements
  • text
  • attributes
  • or a mix of all of the above

A sample of XML Elements could include:

Sample XML MTConnect
  1. <root>
  2.   <child>
  3.     <subchild> .... </subchild>
  4.   </child>
  5. </root>
  1. <MTConnectDevices>
  2.   <Header></Heaader>
  3.   <Devices>
  4.      <Device>
  5.         <Axes>
  6.            <Rotary>...</Rotary>
  7.         </Axes>
  8.      <Device>
  9.   </Devices>
  10. <MTConnectDevices>
XML Sub-Element
A type of XML Element – also called a Child Element. A Sub-Element is a logical or physical portion of the parent Element and is used to segregate information specific to a defined portion of an XML Element. Sub-Elements are grouped into the parent element which in turn functions as a Container.
XML Tree
A graphical representation of an XML Document. This graphical representation defines the XML Elements and the relationship between the elements based on the XML Schema.

The actual format of an XML Tree can vary depending on the tools used to generate the tree.

Samples of XML Trees:

Xmlspy pict1.png Device hierarchy.png

Container
An XML Element that groups related or homogeneous XML Elements. A Container typically contains Child Elements or Sub-Elements.

In MTConnect, Containers are used to group like types of information relative to a Device or Asset.

By convention in the MTConnect Standard, a container will be named in the following formats:

  • Container of XML Elements all of the same type will be defined using the element type name with an “s” (plural). The one exception is Condition in the streams document. Example: Devices, Systems, Axes, etc.
  • Container of related XML Elements that represent a logical grouping of information associated with a common reference will be defined using the element type name without an “s” (singular). Example: Device, Controller, Asset, etc.
Abstract Element
An XML element that can be substituted for another element that is a sub-type of that element. An abstract element cannot appear in the document itself. For example, you cannot have a Component element in the MTConnectDevices, you can only have a a sub-type of Component like Controller or Axes.
Container of Abstract Elements
XML provides a mechanism to force the substitution for a particular element or type of element. When an element or type of element is declared in the XML Schema to be “Abstract”, it cannot be used in the XML Document. When an element is declared to be abstract, a member of that element’s sub-group must appear in the XML Document.

A Virtual or Abstract Container is a Container is defined in the XML Schema to provide structure and context. These type containers do not occur in the XML Document - only the actual XML Elements that make up the content of the container occur in the XML Document. For Example: if you were constructing an XML Document that organizes the names of all the National Football League (NFL) teams in the United States based on the states in which they reside, their roster, etc, you would likely start by defining the XML Elements of Country, State, and Teams in your XML Schema – these are all Container type XML Elements.

  1. <Country name=”United States”>
  2.   <State name=”New York”>
  3.     <Teams>
  4.     </Teams>
  5.   </State>
  6. </Country>

In this example, “Teams” is a Container for all teams. In the XML Schema, the next logical XML Element to define would be “Team” so that you can identify each individual team by their unique name. When developing your XML Schema, there are at least two different ways you mach choose to define a Container such as “Team”.

If “Team” is a large data set and/or a dynamic data set, you typically will define “Team” as an XML Element with an Attribute called “name” so that you can list all of the teams. It would look something like:

  1. <Country name=”United States”>                                 
  2.   <State name=”New York”>
  3.     <Teams>
  4.        <Team name=”Jets”>
  5.          <Roster/>
  6.        </Team>
  7.        <Team name=”Giants”>
  8.          <Roster/>
  9.        </Team>                 
  10.      </Teams>
  11.    </State>
  12. </Country>
Team roster hier1.png

However, since the list of NFL Teams is a limited data set and is fairly stable, you may also choose to use a Virtual Container and name each team within your schema. When you do this, the Virtual Container “Team” will be defined in the XML Schema and will be shown in the XML Tree, but does not appear in the XML Document. It would look something like:

  1. <Country name=”United States”>                                 
  2.   <State name=”New York”>
  3.     <Teams>
  4.        <Jets>
  5.          <Roster/>
  6.        </Jets>
  7.        <Giants>
  8.          <Roster/>
  9.        </Giants>                 
  10.      </Teams>
  11.    </State>
  12. </Country>
Team roster hier2.png

Note: The Virtual Container “Team” appears in the XML Schema and XML Tree, but does not appear in the XML Document.

The MTConnect Standard uses Virtual Containers when specifying specific sub-parts of a Device or Asset. Examples of Virtual Containers in the MTConnect Standard are Component and xxxxxxxxxxxx.

Markup and Content
The characters making up an XML document are divided into markup and content, which may be distinguished by the application of simple syntactic rules. Generally, strings that constitute markup either begin with the character < and end with a >, or they begin with the character & and end with a ;. Strings of characters that are not markup are content.

However, in a CDATA section, the delimiters <![CDATA[ and ]]> are classified as markup, while the text between them is classified as content. In addition, whitespace before and after the outermost element is classified as markup.

Tag
A markup construct that begins with < and ends with > and used to reference an instance of an XML element. Tags come in three flavors:
  • start-tags; for example:
  • empty-element tags; for example: <line-break />
Attributes
Information about an XML Element that provides additional descriptive details to further define the element.

In MTConnect, Attributes are used to provide additional information about XML Elements that are defined in the standard. Examples of Attributes for a Device would be name, id, manufacturer, etc.

CDATA
CData means character data. It is information that may be included in an XML document that contains a text string of data associated with the XML Element. CData is not parsed by an XML parser.

One example would be a Message type XLM Element: <Message ...>This is some text</Message>

Another example would be the “value” provided for an XML Element such as “Speed”

In MTConnect, CData is used to represent the values provided in the Streams XML Document for Data Items: Position, Velocity, Voltage, etc. It is also used to represent the textual content for Alarms, Messages, etc.

XML Terms Defined in the MTConnect Standard

Devices
An XML Container that represents a logical grouping of one or more Device XML Elements.
Device
An XML Element defined in the MTConnect Standard to represent a piece of equipment capable of performing an operation. A Device may be composed of a set of components that provide data to a software application. The Device is a separate entity with at least one component or data item providing information about the device.
MTConnectAssets
An XML Container that represents a logical grouping of one or more Asset XML Elements.
Asset
An XML Element defined in the MTConnect Standard to represent something that is associated with the manufacturing process that is not a component of a device, can be removed without detriment to the function of the device, and can be associated with other devices during their lifecycle. An asset does not have computational capabilities, but may carry information in some media physically attached to the asset.

In MTConnect, examples of Assets would include Tooling, Parts, Fixtures, etc. Stream: An XML Document type that contains the response provided by an MTConnect Agent to a request for information from a client software application. The XML Schema for Stream is defined in Part 3 of the MTConnect Standard.

Components
An XML Container the represents all of the logical and/or physical portions of a device (piece of equipment).
Component
A logical or physical portion of a device (piece of equipment) that can be described independently and has data and/or other descriptive information (attributes) defined within the XML Schema.

In MTConnect, Component is a Virtual or Abstract Type XML Element. Therefore, Component will never appear in a XML document. Specific Component types defined in the MTConnect Stanard will be substituted in the XML for each occurrence of Component – ex. Controller, Door, Axes, etc.

Components are organized as sub-elements of the Components container.

Sub-Component
A logical or physical part of a Component that can be described independently and has data and/or other descriptive information (attributes) defined within the XML Schema.

In MTConnect, Sub-Component is an XML Element type. Sub-Component itself does not appear as an XML Element in the XML Schema. However, specific sub-components are defined in the schema provided in the MTConnect Standard and are represented in the XML Document.

Examples of Sub-Components of the Axes component are Linear and Rotary.

Sub-Components are organized as sub-elements of the parent Component container.

Sub-Components may also be further decomposed into additional levels of Sub-Components.

DataItems
An XML Container the represents all of the data types associated with a XML Element. In MTConnect, DataItems can be associated with Device, Components, any Component Type, or a Sub-Component type, or Asset.
DataItem
An XML Element that provides the descriptive information associated with a XML Element - Device, Components, any Component Type, or a Sub-Component type, or Asset. Examples of DataItem include Voltage, Position, Velocity, Current, Temperature, etc.