Sensors and peripheral devices are a critical part of any robot system, including collaborative applications. A wide variety of sensors and devices are used on and around robots along with actuation and signaling devices. Integrating these and connecting them to the robot control system and network can present challenges due to multiple/long cables, slip rings, many terminations, high costs to connect, inflexible configurations and difficult troubleshooting. But device level protocols, such as IO-Link, provide simpler, cost-effective and “open” ways to connect these sensors to the control system.
Just as the human body requires eyes, ears, skin, nose and tongue to sense the environment around it so that action can be taken, a collaborative robot needs sensors to complete its programmed tasks. We’ve discussed the four modes of collaborative operation in previous blogs, detailing how each mode has special safety/sensing needs, but they have common needs to detect work material, fixtures, gripper position, force, quality and other aspects of the manufacturing process. This is where sensors come in.
Typical collaborative robot sensors include inductive, photoelectric, capacitive, vision, magnetic, safety and other types of sensors. These sensors help the robot detect the position, orientation, type of objects, and it’s own position, and move accurately and safely within its surroundings. Other devices around a robot include valves, RFID readers/writers, indicator lights, actuators, power supplies and more.
The table, below, considers the four collaborative modes and the use of different types of sensors in these modes:
But how can users easily and cost-effectively connect this many sensors and devices to the robot control system? One solution is IO-Link. In the past, robot users would run cables from each sensor to the control system, resulting in long cable runs, wiring difficulties (cutting, stripping, terminating, labeling) and challenges with troubleshooting. IO-Link solves these issues through simple point-to-point wiring using off-the-shelf cables.
Collaborative (and traditional) robot users face many challenges when connecting sensors and peripheral devices to their control systems. IO-Link addresses many of these issues and can offer significant benefits:
- Reduced wiring through a single field network connection to hubs
- Simple connectivity using off-the-shelf cables with plug connectors
- Compatible will all major industrial Ethernet-based protocols
- Easy tool change with Inductive Couplers
- Advanced data/diagnostics
- Parametarization of field devices
- Faster/simpler troubleshooting
- Support for implementation of IIoT/Industry 4.0 solutions
IO-Link: an excellent solution for simple, easy, fast and cost-effective device connection to collaborative robots.