Intelligent Interfaces and IO-Link Innovation

I recently had the opportunity to attend Hannover Fair in Germany and was blown away by the experience… buildings upon buildings of automation companies doing amazing things and helping us build our products faster, smarter and cheaper.  One shining topic for me at the fair was the continued growth of new products being developed with IO-Link communications in them.

All in all, the growth of IO-Link products is being driven by the need of customers to know more about their facility, their process and their production.  IO-Link devices are intelligent and utilize a master device to communicate their specific information over an industrial network back to the controller.  To learn more about IO-Link, read my previous entry, 5 Things You Need to Know about IO-Link.

Back in 2008 Carl Henning of the PROFIblog posted a picture of the products available (Carl has been reporting about IO-Link since the beginning!).  There were a number of devices available in 2008, but nothing on the scale of what is available today, below is a shot I took of the product wall at the IO-Link Booth from 2012, and this is just a small representation of what was available compared to what I found when I visited company booths!

Some big achievements in the last 4 years to note:

  • IO-Link Master Devices are available for virtually every industrial network that you could possibly consider for your automation equipment including IP67 devices, master slices for PLCs and rack I/O systems.
  • Multiple options for RFID technology and data traceability in manufacturing.
  • A large offering of pressure / temperature / flow / level sensors for detection / measuring  / monitoring process.
  • An explosion of object detection and measurement sensors in photoeyes, proxes, ultrasonics, linear transducers, etc.
  • A number of interesting switchgear and motor protection devices designed to monitor themselves and report cycle counts and impending failures!
  • And of course many I/O devices like sensor hubs, valve manifolds and short-range wireless devices.

The benefit all of these devices give is two-fold:

  1. Choice:  Since IO-Link is an open standard, you have multiple vendors to choose from and many technologies available cross vendors.
  2. Flexibility:  A master port can be used for virtually any automation application where you need to know more about your process, one design has a special ultrasonic application and the next may require an additional valve manifold.  Your network architecture stays the same, you just change out the devices you need!

If you are interested in learning more about specific IO-Link devices available, check out Balluff’s offering.

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