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Decreasing Time to Design in the Industrial Internet of Things

Two robots about to shake hands

The IIoT can add greater levels of automation, machine vision, connectivity and robotics to smart factories when built on reliable, stable solutions

Discussions about the industrial market today are often focused on the vast potential in the industrial IoT (IIoT). The huge potential for innovation offers the promise of significant productivity gains, operational efficiency and bottom line revenue increases, but only if it’s enabled by a supply chain based on reliability, stability and longevity.

These values will be even more important as manufacturers and system integrators adopt greater levels of automation, connectivity and autonomy—all with faster design cycles and more competition increasing the pressure to get to market quickly. The interplay between these requirements is what defines the industrial marketplace and the innovation developers will contribute to it.

Connectivity, efficiency & reliability in the IIoT

Industry 4.0, or the fourth ‘industrial revolution’, reveals how the IoT can upgrade the factory floor. With the right functionality the IIoT can make any industrial environment smarter, adding connectivity to collect information at the sensor level that can turn the Big Data of yesterday into true insights today, to the betterment of organizations through action tomorrow.

While greater efficiency impacts a lot of sectors, the industrial market’s need for efficiency is even more acute. The amount of resources manufacturing takes holistically is vast, so connectivity and efficiency are crucial factors for developers and the organizations in which they work to consider, in every process and as part of every design decision.

What’s more, while there is clear change happening across the industrial sector, stability and longevity remain paramount. The stability of supply and price for manufacturers ensures they will be able to continue to develop, build, deliver and maintain their systems for extended periods. Often this requires component suppliers to guarantee continuity of supply for as much as 15 years, with a commensurate price guarantee for up to 4 years.

Assessing the right technology for industrial applications

For developers, balancing connectivity, efficiency and reliability comes down to the right technology choices for each specific application.

To give an example, consider ON Semiconductor’s Intelligent Power Module (IPM) family, which utilizes insulated metal substrate technology (IMST). This technology integrates many active components on a metal substrate to deliver high integration with excellent thermal conductivity.

From IPMs, motor drivers (BLDC, stepper, brushed), load drivers and relay drivers, there’s a vast amount of semiconductor technology that’s being used in industrial robots and other IIoT applications. These are supported by a growing number of optimized MOSFET and IGBT drivers, and high-performance optocouplers. These products enable engineers to develop the most advanced, reliable industrial drive systems, to deliver accurate control in applications utilizing any combination of low voltage motors and high current loads.

When considering efficiency and reliability, the sensors — from temperature, motion and ambient light, and increasingly image sensors for machine vision, for instance — need to be optimized for electrically noisy conditions. These sensors’ small signals then need to be filtered and amplified before being converted to digital data and passed to a central processor. Coupled with this comes circuit protection in the form of ESD protection diodes.

The control element of industrial automation also involves a wide range of devices, typically power semiconductors manufactured using various processes including MOSFETs, IGBTs and SiC transistors. Leading manufacturers of switching and power semiconductors now offer devices that meet a wide and varying range of requirements suitable for power inverter circuits and motor drivers, as an example. Compliance with international standards is now commonplace and mandatory in many industries, which is why leaders like ON Semiconductor develop parts that adhere to international quality standards including ISO 90001:2015 and IATF 16949:2016. 

Speeding time to market with IIoT applications

The seemingly opposing demands of developing more complex circuits within smaller windows and often lower budgets is prolific in the Industrial IoT, putting pressure on development teams to bring machinery invented before the Internet age to the cutting edge of tomorrow’s technology.

The time it takes to design anything is geared to the speed at which engineers can understand a new technology, up to the point where they are proficient enough to use it in an application. As new products are developed and optimized for specific applications, it becomes more important to give engineers the tools they need to make that process as simple as possible.

For design teams, interactive block diagrams present engineers with a reference design for specific applications in markets like industrial for semiconductor products. Each diagram presents engineers with a selection of potential solutions for each of the key functional blocks in any given design. Further details for each component can be accessed easily from the block diagram and added to a custom worksheet, making it simpler to quickly develop design ideas.

When it is time to move to the early evaluation of specific devices, developers can now turn to ON Semiconductor’s Strata Developer Studio cloud-connected platform as a starting point for design. The software automatically recognizes evaluation boards as soon as they are connected to a host PC, at which point it retrieves the latest design collateral and auto-configures the evaluation board, enabling engineers to get up and running faster than ever before. Paired with Avnet’s global expertise, those designs can go from ideas on a napkin to product ready with design for manufacturability, strong supply chain and regulatory considerations in mind.

The right partners help developers bring designs to market—fast

The Industrial IoT will encompass a wide range of technologies, from sensors to the cloud. Robotics and automation are safety-critical applications demanding the very best solutions.

That’s why developers need partners who can act as extensions of their teams, providing both the parts and the services to move from idea to product and product to market. Both Avnet and ON Semiconductor have taken this to heart, creating a product development ecosystem and software platform respectively, to shorten design time for developers and speed time to market for businesses.

Learn more about how to transform your thinking around what’s available for your industrial IoT application.  


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