IO Link, Industry 4.0 and IIoT
If you were asked to consider the most important aspect of deploying Industry 4.0 and embracing the Internet of Things what answer would you give?
Well I’m going to go out on limb here and say that IO Link wasn’t the first thing that sprung to mind, would I be right? Maybe you thought about inter connect-ability.
In order to truly integrate Industry 4.0 what you need is data and lots of it, so what can we do with lots of data, well here below is a quick reference to all you have heard about the benefits of Industry 4.0
- It makes factories smarter
- Machines can gather and utilise data in real time
- Data can be analysed to enhance production capabilities
- Assembly / process and lines can customise products, meeting individual needs without incurring additional cost
- Ability to track and trace products throughout the production / manufacturing process
- Monitor machine and production efficiencies to reduce waste and energy consumption
- Machines letting you know that they need maintenance before approaching failure
How can you release the benefits of Industry 4.0
For this to work real time data from the shop floor is required, this is essentially Industry 4.0. Before anything else the first consideration should be how to get data from the field devices and sensors to the control system, without this you can forget about Industry 4.0. For me the shop floor is the first place to start when considering industry 4.0.
I mean sure you need computers, PLC’s processors, data networks and the holy-grail of the internet to move, analyse and make this data mean something, but that’s the easy bit. We are not waiting for anything here, this technology is already there waiting for whatever you can throw at it, but first you need the data.
Until recently sensors mounted on machines or within industrial processes could collect data but this data was essentially trapped with no path available from the field level to the control system.
Enter IO Link, an open communication system which can integrate conventional and intelligent sensors and actuators, be they analogue, binary or digital. Don’t be confused IO Link is not a new bus system, it's been about for a while and is highly regarded, basically it’s a bi-direction point to point interface between an IO master and the sensors or actuators. Using existing 3 wire unshielded cable, time and effort for wiring is limited, it’s more connecting than wiring.
There is a saying that everything is easy up to the last meter. IO Link enabled sensors are the key to providing information direct from field devices to the control system. In essence this covers that allusive last meter from whatever is being monitored via the sensors, on to the IO master and on to the control system, enter Industry 4.0.
The real beauty of IO Link enabled sensors is that they are totally interchangeable, when a sensor needs replaced, there is no need to re-configure, all parameters remain the same, simply replace and you're good to go. With IO Link that last meter is no longer a sticking point.
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