While fieldbus solutions utilize sensors and devices with networking ability, they come with limitations. IO-Link provides one standard device level communication that is smart in nature and network independent. That enables interoperability throughout the controls pyramid, making it the most suitable choice for smart manufacturing.
IO-Link offers a cost effective solution to the problems. Here is how:
IO-Link uses data communication rather than signal communication. That means the communication is digital with 24V signal with high resistance to the electrical noise signals.
IO-Link offers three different communication modes: Process communication, Diagnostic communication (also known as configuration or parameter communication), and Events.
Process communication offers the measurement data for which the device or sensor is primarily selected. This communication is cyclical and continuous in nature similar to discrete I/O or analog communication.
Diagnostic communication is a messaging (acyclic) communication that is used to set up configuration parameters, receive error codes and diagnostic messages.
Event communication is also acyclic in nature and is how the device informs the controller about some significant event that the sensor or that device experienced.
IO-Link is point-to-point communication, so the devices communicate to the IO-Link master module, which acts as a gateway to the fieldbus or network systems or even standard TCP/IP communication system. So, depending on the field-bus/network used, the IO-Link master may change but all the IO-Link devices enjoy the freedom from the choice of network. Power is part of the IO-Link communication, so it does not require separate power port/drop on the devices.
Every open IO-Link master port offers expansion possibilities for future integration. For example, you could host an IO-Link RFID device or a barcode reader for machine access control as a part of a traceability improvement program.
As technology advances at a faster pace and the world becomes flatter, manufacturing operations are generally focused on efficient production to maximize profitability for the organization. In the new era of industrial automation and smart manufacturing, organizations are turning to data generated on their plant floors to make sound decisions about production and process improvements.
Smart manufacturing improvements can be divided roughly into six different segments: Predictive Analytics, Track and Trace, Error Proofing, Predictive Maintenance, Ease of Troubleshooting, and Remote Monitoring.To implement any or all of these improvements requires interoperable systems that can communicate effectively and sensors and devices with the ability to provide the data required to achieve the manufacturer’s goals. For example, if the goal is to have error free change-overs between production cycles, then feedback systems that include identification of change parts, measurements for machine alignment changes, or even point of use indication for operators may be required. Similarly, to implement predictive maintenance, systems require devices that provide alerts or information about their health or overall system health.
Traditional control system integration methods that rely heavily on discrete or analog (or both) modes of communication are limited to specific operations. For example, a 4-20mA measurement device would only communicate a signal between 4-20mA. When it goes beyond those limits there is a failure in communication, in the device or in the system. Identifying that failure requires manual intervention for debugging the problem and wastes precious time on the manufacturing floor.
The question then becomes, why not utilize only sensors and devices with networking ability such as a fieldbus node? This could solve the data and interoperability problems, but it isn’t an ideal solution:
Most fieldbuses do not integrate power and hence require devices to have separate power drops making the devices bulkier.
Multiple fieldbuses in the plant on different machines requires the devices to support multiple fieldbus/network protocols. This can be cost prohibitive, otherwise the manufacturer will need to stock all varieties of the same sensor.
Several of the commonly used fieldbuses have limitations on the number nodes you can add — in general 256 nodes is capacity for a subnet. Additional nodes requires new expensive switches and other hardware.
IO-Link provides one standard device level communication that is smart in nature and network independent, thus it enables interoperability throughout the controls pyramid making it the most suitable choice for smart manufacturing.
We will go over more specific details on why IO-Link is the best suited technology for smart manufacturing in next week’s blog.
Is it possible to safely switch off cylinders while simultaneously transmitting field data and set up the system in accordance with standards? Yes!
In order to rule out a safety-critical fault between adjacent printed circuit board tracks/contact points (short circuit) according to DIN EN ISO 13849, clearance and creepage distances must be considered. One way to eliminate faults is to provide galvanic isolation by not interconnecting safety-relevant circuits/segments. This means charge carriers from one segment cannot switch over to the other, and the separation makes it possible to connect the safety world with automation — with IO-Link. Safely switching off actuators and simultaneously collecting sensor signals reliably via IO-Link is possible with just one module. To further benefit from IO-Link and ensure safety at the same time, Balluff’s I/O module is galvanically isolated with a sensor and an actuator segment. The two circuits of the segments are not interconnected, and the actuator segment can be safely switched off without affecting the sensors. Important sensor data can still be monitoring and communicated.
The topological structure and the application of this safety function is shown in this figure as an example:
A PLC is connected to an IO-Link master module via a fieldbus system.
The IO-Link master is the interface to all I/O modules (IO-Link sensor/actuator hubs) or other devices, such as IO-Link sensors. The IO-Link communication takes place via a standardized M12 connector.
Binary switching elements can be connected to the galvanically isolated sensor/actuator hub (BNI IOL-355). The four connection ports on the left correspond to the sensor segment and the four ports on the right correspond to the actuator segment. Communication of the states is done via IO-Link.
The power supply for both segments takes place via a 7/8″ connection, whereby attention must be paid to potential separated routing of the sensor and actuator circuits. Both the power supply unit itself and the wiring to the IO-Link device with the two segments must also ensure external galvanic isolation. This is made possible by separating the lines with a splitter.
An external safety device is required to safely interrupt the supply voltage of the actuator segment (four ports simultaneously). Thus, the module can implement safety functions up to SIL2 according to EN62061/PLd and ISO 13849. For example, this can happen through the use of a safety relay, whereby the power supply is safely disconnected after actuation of peripheral safety devices (such as emergency stops and door switches). At the same time, the sensor segment remains active and can provide important information from the field devices.
The module can handle up to eight digital inputs and outputs. If the IO-Link connection is interrupted, the outputs assume predefined states that are retained until the IO-Link connection is restored. Once the connection is restored, this unique state of the machine can be used to continue production directly without a reference run.
An application example for the interaction of sensors and actuators in a safety environment is the pneumatic clamping device of a workpiece holder. The position feedback of the cylinders is collected by the sensor segment, while at the same time the actuator segment can be switched off safely via its separately switchable safety circuit. If the sensor side is not required for application-related reasons, galvanically isolated IO-Link modules are also available with only actuator segments (BNI IOL 252/256). An isolated shutdown can protect up to two safety areas separately.
The development and design of a machine is followed by the assembly and commissioning phase. Commissioning is especially time consuming, but the replacement of components or devices can be so as well.
This often raises the question of how to simplify commissioning and optimize component replacement.
The answer is provided by the IO-Link communication interface. IO-Link is the first globally standardized IO technology (IEC 61131-9) that communicates from the controller down to the lowest level.
But how exactly does this help with commissioning and component replacement? This is very simple and will be explained now. Let’s start first with the assembly, installation and commissioning phase.
During installation, the individual components must be electrically connected to each other. While fieldbus use has simplified the installation process, generally speaking, fieldbus cables have a low signal level, are susceptible to interference, have little flexibility, and are expensive due to their shielding. This is where IO-Link comes into play. Because the weaknesses of a fieldbus protocol are negligible with IO-Link.
Included in an IO-Link system are an IO-Link master and one or several IO-Link devices such as sensors or actuators. The IO-Link master is the interface to the controller (PLC) and takes over communication with connected IO-Link devices. The interface uses unshielded, three- or four-conductor standard industrial cables. Therefore the standard communication interface can be integrated into the fieldbus world without effort. Even complex components can be easily connected in this way. In addition, the standard industrial cables are highly flexible and suitable for many bending cycles. Three wires are the standard for the communication between the devices and the IO-Link master and for the power supply voltage. These are easy to connect, extremely cost-effective and their connection is standardized with M5, M8 or M12 connectors.
The commissioning will also be supported by IO-Link. The devices can be parameterized quickly and easily through parameter maintenance or duplication. Annoying manual adjustment of the sensors and actuators is no longer necessary. This saves money and avoids errors. The parameters of the individual devices are stored in the PLC or directly in the IO-Link master and can, therefore, be written directly to the sensor.
Now that we have clarified the advantages of IO-Link during commissioning, we will take a look at the replacement of components.
Save device replacement during operation
A sensor replacement directly leads to machine downtime. IO-Link enables quick and error-free replacement of sensors. The parameters of a replaced IO-Link sensor are automatically written from the IO-Link master or the PLC to the new sensor. The accessibility of the sensor does not play a major role anymore. In addition, IO-Link devices cannot be mixed up, since they are automatically identifiable via IO-Link.
Efficient format and recipe changes
IO-Link offers ideal properties that are predestined for format adjustment: sufficient speed, full access to all parameters, automatic configuration, and absolute transmission of the measured values. This eliminates the need for time-consuming reference runs. Since the machine control remains permanently traceable, the effort required for error-prone written paper documentation is also saved. Format changes and recipe changes can be carried out centrally via the function blocks of the PLC.
In the last post about the Basics of Automation, we learned how distances, travel, angles and pressures can be measured contactlessly, whether linear or rotary. In this blog, let’s take a closer look at IO-Link technology.
Throughout the history of manufacturing, as the level of automation increased, the demand for intelligent field devices grew. A variety of interfaces with different mechanical and electrical characteristics were created, and the need for standardization grew. The cooperative work of several companies developed the viable solution. Like USB in the PC world, IO-Link in automation leads to a considerable simplification of installation with simultaneously extended diagnostics and parameterization capability.
It’s a worldwide standardized I/O technology according to IEC 61131-9, in order to communicate from the control to the lowest level of automation. The universal interface is a fieldbus independent point-to-point connection that works with an unshielded industrial cable. The IO-Link Community founded in 2006, consisting of leading automation manufacturers, promotes IO-Link with the acronym “”USE””:
Universal – IO-Link is an international standard (IEC 61131-9)
Smart – IO-Link enables diagnostics and parameter-setting of devices
Easy – IO-Link provides great simplification and cost reduction
Also mentioned as the heart of the IO-Link installation, it communicates with the controller via the respective fieldbus as well as downward using IO-Link to the sensor/actuator level.
Sensors and Actuators The IO-Link capable intelligent sensors and actuators are connected directly to the IO-Link master via IO-Link. This enables the simplest installation, the best signal quality, parameterization and diagnostics.
Hubs The sensor/actuator hub exchanges signals with the binary and/or analog sensors and actuators and communicates with the IO-Link master.
IO-Link is well-suited for use in measurement applications that have traditionally used analog (0…10V or 4…20mA) signals. This is thanks in large part to the implementation of IO-Link v1.1, which provides faster data transmission and increased bandwidth compared to v1.0. Here are three areas where IO-Link v1.1 excels in comparison to analog.
Fewer data errors, at lower cost
By nature, analog signals are susceptible to interference caused by other electronics in and around the equipment, including motors, pumps, relays, and drives. Because of this, it’s almost always necessary to use high-quality, shielded cables to transmit the signals back to the controller. Shielded cables are expensive and can be difficult to work with. And even with them in place, signal interference is a common issue that is difficult to troubleshoot and resolve.
With IO-Link, measurements are converted into digital values at the sensor, before transmission. Compared to analog signals, these digital signals are far less susceptible to interference, even when using unshielded 4-wire cables which cost about half as much as equivalent shielded cables. The sensor and network master block (Ethernet/IP, for example) can be up to 20 meters apart. Using industry-standard connectors, the possibility for wiring errors is virtually eliminated.
Less sensor programming required
An analog position sensor expresses a change in position by changing its analog voltage or current output. However, a change of voltage or current does not directly represent a unit of measurement. Additional programming is required to apply a scaling factor to convert the change in voltage or current to a meaningful engineering unit like millimeters or feet.
It is often necessary to configure analog sensors when they are being installed, changing the default characteristics to suit the application. This is typically performed at the sensor itself and can be fairly cumbersome. When a sensor needs to be replaced, the custom configuration needs to be repeated for the replacement unit, which can prolong expensive machine downtime.
IO-Link sensors can also be custom configured. Like analog sensors, this can be done at the sensor, but configuration and parameterization can also be performed remotely, through the network. After configuration, these custom parameters are stored in the network master block and/or offline. When an IO-Link sensor is replaced, the custom parameter data can be automatically downloaded to the replacement sensor, maximizing machine uptime.
Diagnostic data included
A major limitation of traditional analog signals is that they provide process data (position, distance, pressure, etc.) without much detail about the device, the revision, the manufacturer, or fault codes. In fact, a reading of 0 volts in a 0-10VDC interface could mean zero position, or it could mean that the sensor has ceased to function. If a sensor has in fact failed, finding the source of the problem can be difficult.
With IO-Link, diagnostic information is available that can help resolve issues quickly. As an example, the following diagnostics are available in an IO-Link magnetostrictive linear position sensor: process variable range overrun, measurement range overrun, process variable range underrun, magnet number change, temperature (min and max), and more.
This sensor level diagnostic information is automatically transmitted and available to the network, allowing immediate identification of sensor faults without the need for time-consuming troubleshooting to identify the source of the problem.
In the first part of this series “Demystifying Class A and Class B Type IO-Link Ports” we discussed the two different types of IO-Link master ports and pointed out how they differ in operation and applications. The point of that blog was to ensure that when we choose one over the other, what is the opportunity cost of that decision.
In my recent blog, part #2 in this series, “Not all IO-Link Masters are Born Equal!“, we explored that even when multiple vendors provide or call out their IO-Link master, they are different in the implementation of features and functions they offer. IO-Link is IO-Link! It is a standard for communication but other features that accompany the communication differentiates how they behave; for example- sensor only master, hybrid master, and architecture backbone master.
In this blog, we will focus on various implementations of Port Type A (or Class A) and how they add varying degrees of value to your applications.
Implementation #1: Figure 1 below depicts the guts (electrical connections) of one of the three implementations of the IO-Link Class A master port. Two key things to notice here:
The power coming into the IO-Link master port is only device power. There is no output power with this implementation. The reason that it is designed like this is to only integrate sensor inputs.
Pin 1 and Pin 3 provide the device power and ground (common) to the IO-Link device, pin 4 is IO-Link communication. Pin 2 works as an input only for digital sensors like photo-eyes or prox switches. Basically, this port can be split to use one IO-Link sensor (pins 1, 3 and 4) and one standard ON/OFF sensor (pins 1,3, and 2).
Another alternate of this implementation is that some vendors may have another IO-Link connection on Pin 2. So, it serves to add 2 IO-Link devices off the same port. Unfortunately, I am not an expert to say whether this is according to the specification or not.
The Pros: Low power consumption and simplifies integrating smart sensors.
The Cons: By definition, a control system has both inputs and outputs – controlling “something” based on sensory inputs and logic. This implementation provides semi-standard implementation to the controls architecture. IO-Link promises unified communication across the plant floor not half of the plant floor. Characteristics of this type of master port would be max output current of about 250-300mA per port and about 2A per module (rated for up to 4A, if its carries UL).
Implementation #2: This implementation is a slight variation of the sensor only port (Implementation #1 above). It is achieved by adding an output capability for pin 2 on each port- shown in figure 2 below. It is important to note that although each port has output capability on pin 2, the output power is shared with the device power for the port. It implies that, in case of E-stop situations, where shutting off power to the valves/solenoids connected to pin 2 or an IO-Link device that requires an output power, the entire device power will be shut-off. Basically, the state of the device connected to pin 2 and state of IO-Link devices connected on pin 4 will be lost or requires more elaborate approach (programming, testing and validation) in the controls side to handling these types of safety situations.
This type of implementation is commonly found on hybrid IO-Link master’s Class A (type A) port implementation.
The Pros: Flexibility to use pin 2 for input or output – standardized approach to all devices.
The Cons: Lack of ability to control the output power separate from the device power – causing variety of controls approaches (lots of precautions) when incorporating machine safety.
Implementation #3: This implementation offers the most flexibility in designing the controls architecture that utilizes IO-Link. Figure 3 depicts the implementation below. In this case, the device power, as prior approaches, comes from pin 1 and pin 3 but pin 2 uses a separate power for output. The pin 2 on each of these ports can be used for input, output or to provide separate output power to the IO-Link devices. It is important to note that although pin 2 offers output power separate from the device power, the common/ground for this power is still tied to pin 3. The output power is separate but not isolated, like in the Class B port implementation discussed in the blog “Demystifying Class A and Class B Type IO-Link Ports“.
The two key advantages with this approach are: 1) High amperage output can be used from pin 2 to control valves or solenoids by splitting the port, and 2) IO-Link devices such as valve terminals or configurable I/O hubs that require output power can be connected with standard 4 pole cables without needing additional power cables or connectors.
This does appear very similar to implementation 2 where output power can be provided as well. The key difference is that since the output power comes from a different power line, it is not shared with the device power — as you know, amperage reduces when you have parallel circuits, so implementation 2 is subject to that principle whereas implementation #3 is not.
Another benefit with this approach is that a safety relay can be placed on the power going to pin 2 because the output power for the entire module is separate. That means in case of E-stop situations, the output power can be shut off without harming the device power. This eliminates the need for elaborated controls planning as the device state is maintained throughout the operation. After recovering from an E-stop, the valves and all other outputs go back to their original state. This significantly simplifies your controls architecture, offers standardized approach to cabling and provides unified interface for all devices.
To learn more about Balluff’s implementation of IO-Link masters please visit www.balluff.com.
Users of IO-Link have long been in search of a solution for implementing the demands for functional safety using IO-Link. As a first step, the only possibility was to turn the actuators off using a separate power supply (Port class “B”, Pins 2, 5), which powers down the entire module. Today there is a better answer: Safety hub with IO-Link!
This integrated safety concept is the logical continuation of the IO-Link philosophy. It is the only globally available technology to build on the proven IO-Link standards and profisafe. This means it uses the essential IO-Link benefits such as simple data transport and information exchange, high flexibility and universal applicability for safety signals as well. Safety over IO-Link combines automation and safety and represents efficient safety concepts in one system. Best of all, the functionality of the overall system remains unchanged. Safety is provided nearly as an add-on.
In the center of this safety concept is the new safety hub, which is connected to an available port on an IO-Link master. The safety components are connected to it using M12 standard cable. The safety profisafe signals are then tunneled to the controller through an IO-Link master. This has the advantage of allowing existing infrastructure to still be used without any changes. Parameters are configured centrally through the user interface of the controller.
The safety hub has four 2-channel safe inputs for collecting safety signals, two safe outputs for turning off safety actuators, and two multi-channel ports for connecting things like safety interlocks which require both input and output signals to be processed simultaneously. The system is TÜV- and PNO-certified and can be used up to PLe/SIL 3. Safety components from all manufacturers can be connected to the safe I/O module.
Like IO-Link in general, Safety over IO-Link is characterized by simple system construction, time-and cost-saving wiring using M12 connectors, reduction in control cabinet volume and leaner system concepts. Virtually any network topology can be simply scaled with Safety over IO-Link, whereby the relative share of automation and safety can be varied as desired. Safety over IO-Link also means unlimited flexibility. Thanks to varying port configuration and simple configuration systems, it can be changed even at the last minute. All of this helps reduce costs. Additional savings come from the simple duplication of (PLC-) projects, prewiring of machine segments and short downtimes made possible by ease of component replacement.
IO-Link as a standard for device level communication has been around for over a decade. It has started gaining huge momentum in the Americas with 60-70% growth in IO-Link integration in 2017 alone (awaiting official numbers from the IO-Link consortium). Due to this huge market demand for IO-Link, there has been an insurgence of IO-Link masters with features and functionality that is dazzling machine builders and end users alike.
While IO-Link as a communication platform is a standard (IEC 61131-9), the added features and functions leave some machine builders confused on how to reap benefits of these different masters that are around. Some machine builders have a thought process of “Hey, vendor A is selling an IO-Link master and vendor B is also selling an IO-Link master – they are both IO-Link so, why should I pay more?” These machine builders are choosing the lower cost options without realizing what they are missing out on – and sometimes getting disgruntled about the technology itself. On the other hand, some machine builders are spending too much time in measuring and testing a variety of masters – wasting precious time and materials to identify what fits best for their solution. With this blog post and my next, I am hoping to add some clarity on how to detect differences quickly amongst the masters and make a decision that is best suitable for the applications at hand.
IO-Link started out as a standard of communications for smart sensors with a focus to eliminate variety of different interfaces on the plant floor- but since its inception it has manifested itself to be much more than simple sensor integration. It has also gained significance as a backbone for enabling Industry 4.0 or IIoT. So, let’s review different types of IO-Link masters.
The very first thing machine builders have to do is determine whether the IO-Link master should be IP20 (in cabinet) implementation or IP65-67-69 rated (machine mounted) implementation.
The machine mounted version makes sense as it is suitable for most industrial environments. The IP20 version may be desirable if the machine is operating in extreme environments or experiences continuous changes in temperature, humidity and other factors.
With machine mount masters:
It is easier to debug the system with onboard diagnostics availability
Eliminates wiring and terminates hassle and saves time and money during the machine building process.
If the IP20 master is your choice, then there isn’t a major difference between vendor A and vendor B IO-Link masters. The difference could appear based on whether the IO-Link master is a part of a larger system or stand-alone module connected to the machine controller through one of the fieldbus or network gateway. One more thing to note about IP20 masters is they are meant for connecting 3-pin IO-Link devices only. If you want to use architectural benefits of having added Vaux (separate output power) then using IP20 masters becomes complicated and quickly becomes expensive.
If the initial features of machine mounted masters are appealing to you, then there are a few more decisions to be made. The machine mounted IO-Link masters (for simplicity let’s call them IP67 Masters) range from “sensor only” integration capable masters to the ones that have the ability to become a backbone for flexible modular controls architecture. There are primarily three different types of masters as shown below in the chart and they differ based on the power routing capabilities and power handling capabilities.
Digitizing the production world in the age of Industry 4.0 increases the need for information between the various levels of the automation pyramid from the sensor/actuator level up to the enterprise management level. Sensors are the eyes and ears of automation technology, without which there would be no data for such a cross-level flow of information. They are at the scene of the action in the system and provide valuable information as the basis for implementing modern production processes. This in turn allows smart maintenance or repair concepts to be realized, preventing production scrap and increasing system uptime.
This digitizing begins with the sensor itself. Digitizing requires intelligent sensors to enrich equipment models with real data and to gain clarity over equipment and production status. For this, the “eyes and ears” of automation provide additional information beyond their primary function. In addition to data for service life, load level and damage detection environmental information such as temperature, contamination or quality of the alignment with the target object is required.
One Sensor – Multiple Functions
This photoelectric sensor offers these benefits. Along with the switching signal, it also uses IO-Link to provide valuable information about the sensor status or the current ambient conditions. This versatile sensor uses red light and lets you choose from among four sensor modes: background suppression, energetic diffuse, retroreflective or through-beam sensor. These four sensing principles are the most common in use all over the world in photoelectric sensors and have proven themselves in countless industrial applications. In production this gives you additional flexibility, since the sensor principles can be changed at any time, even on-the-fly. Very different objects can always be reliably detected in changing operating conditions. Inventory is also simplified. Instead of four different devices, only one needs to be stocked. Sensor replacement is easy and uncomplicated, since the parameter sets can be updated and loaded via IO-Link at any time. Intelligent sensors are ideal for use with IO-Link and uses data retention to eliminate cumbersome manual setting. All the sensor functions can be configured over IO-Link, so that a remote teach-in can be initiated by the controller.
Diagnostics – Smart and Effective
New diagnostics functions also represent a key feature of an intelligent sensor. The additional sensor data generated here lets you realize intelligent maintenance concepts to significantly improve system uptime. An operating hours counter is often built in as an important aid for predictive maintenance.
The light emission values are extremely helpful in many applications, for example, when the ambient conditions result in increased sensor contamination. These values are made available over IO-Link as raw data to be used for trend analyses. A good example of this is the production of automobile tires. If the transport line of freshly vulcanized tires suddenly stops due to a dirty sensor, the tires will bump into each other, resulting in expensive scrap as the still-soft tires are deformed. This also results in a production downtime until the transport line has been cleared, and in the worst case the promised delivery quantities will not be met. Smart sensors, which provide corresponding diagnostic possibilities, quickly pay for themselves in such cases. The light remission values let the plant operator know the degree of sensor contamination so he can initiate a cleaning measure before it comes to a costly production stop.
In the same way, the light remission value allows you to continuously monitor the quality of the sensor signal. Sooner or later equipment will be subject to vibration or other external influences which result in gradual mechanical misalignment. Over time, the signal quality is degraded as a result and with it the reliability and precision of the object detection. Until now there was no way to recognize this creeping degradation or to evaluate it. Sensors with a preset threshold do let you know when the received amount of light is insufficient, but they are not able to derive a trend from the raw data and perform a quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the detection certainty.
When it comes to operating security, intelligent sensors offer even more. Photoelectric sensors have the possibility to directly monitor the output of the emitter LED. This allows critical operating conditions caused by aging of the LED to be recognized and responded to early. In a similar way, the sensors interior temperature and the supply voltage are monitored as well. Both parameters give you solid information about the load condition of the sensor and with it the failure risk.
Flexible and Clever
Increasing automation is resulting in more and more sensors and devices in plant systems. Along with this, the quantity of transported data that has to be managed by fieldbus nodes and controllers is rising as well. Here intelligent sensors offer great potential for relieving the host controller while at the same time reducing data traffic on the fieldbus. Pre-processing the detection signals right in the sensor represents a noticeable improvement. A freely configurable count function offers several counting and reset options for a wide variety of applications. The count pulses are evaluated directly in the sensor – without having to pass the pulses themselves on to the controller. Instead, the sensor provides status signals, e.g. when one of the previously configured limit values has been reached. This all happens directly in the sensor, and ensures fast-running processes regardless of the IO-Link data transmission speed.
Industry 4.0 Benefits
In the age of Industry 4.0 and IoT, the significance of intelligent sensors is increasing. There is a high demand from end users for these sensors since these functions enable them to use their equipment and machines with far greater flexibility than ever before. At the same time they are also the ones who have the greatest advantage when it comes to preventing downtimes and production scrap. Intelligent sensors make it possible to implement intelligent production systems, and the data which they provide enables intelligent control of these systems. In interaction with all intelligent components this enables more efficient utilization of all the machines in a plant and ensures better use of the existing resources. With the increasing spread of Industry 4.0 and IoT solutions, the demand for intelligent sensors as data providers will also continue to grow. In the future, intelligent sensors will be a permanent and necessary component of modern and self-regulating systems, and will therefore have a firm place in every sensor portfolio.