Industrial networks are nothing new; ASi, CANbus, DeviceNet, Profibus (to name a few) have all been around for years. Designers of production equipment use networks for a variety of reasons: simplified machine mount I/O, motor starters, valve bank control, etc. Each network has a limited number of devices that can be connected and each device is designated a node address or IP address. IO-Link takes a standard network and expands it beyond its current capacity through flexibility and expansion.
What do I need to know about IO-Link?
1) Multiple Smart Devices per Address: The first basic benefit of IO-Link is to allow for multiple smart network type devices to be connected to one address and thus allowing for more devices to be connected in one network. Examples of IO-Link smart devices are: I/O blocks, valve bank connectors, measurement sensors, color sensors, and RFID systems.
2) Higher Level of Flexibility: The second basic benefit of IO-Link is to allow for easy parameterization and configuration of these smart devices. This allows for more flexibility in the production process since an operator doesn’t have to reprogram the devices in every recipe change.
3) Simple Device Replacement: IO-Link also allows for simple replacement of the devices by being able to download parameters into the replacement device right from the controller. Maintenance crews would no longer need to spend precious production time figuring out how to reprogram a high end device.
4) IO-Link is an Open Consortium of Manufacturers: Check out this list, many major sensor, networking and industrial hardware manufacturers are actively participating in this group. New products are released on a regular basis and IO-Link is gaining ground in North America as well as in Europe.
5) Simple Serial Point to Point Communication: For those who need to know more about how IO-Link works, it is simply a serial point to point communication between two devices. In the example below, the measurement laser is connected over a standard 3wire sensor cable (up to 20meters long) to a Profibus IO-Link master device. All of the measurement data (which is usually sent via 0-10V) is communicated using IO-Link and appears in the controller as a simple set of bits.
I recommend a quick read through the IO-Link Consortium’s FAQ for the answers to many general questions and concerns.