The use of IO-Link and smart sensor technologies is creating flexible factories that use adaptive manufacturing techniques. This new level of Industrial optimization powers the Industrial IoT (IIoT). Together these technologies are driving factory automation equipment to shrink, achieving low power consumption through reduced heat dissipation, and delivering greater manufacturing productivity and efficiency. As factories continue to become smarter, their underlying systems will continue to require sophisticated sensors, embedded processing, and secure authentication solutions that meet power and form factor demands.
The move to Industry 4.0 emphasizes two key trends in industrial sensor design. Sensors are getting increasingly smaller and the information that they collect/transmit is increasingly richer. These two system-level trends are directly influenced by the need to collect and analyze an ever-increasing volume of data from the factory–which is the key for Industry 4.0. A good example of this is the availability of small, integrated intelligent sensors that transmit rich information over protocols such as IO-Link – the fastest growing sensor communication protocol in factory automation systems. This powerful point-to-point communication is based on the long-established 3-wire sensor and actuator connection and has been adopted as an international standard worldwide (IEC 61131-9) for communication with sensors and also actuators.
The best way to think about IO-Link is that it is kind of like a USB for sensors—simple to use and implement, and capable of providing intelligent data from smart sensors. Another change in the system architecture due to Industry 4.0 is the increasing usage of distributed controllers. Given the number of sensors in a plant/process, it is not feasible to route each one of them to a central PLC. Instead, many distributed PLCs are located closer to the line that is being controlled. PLCs in an Industrial 4.0 setting need to be miniaturized to move all of that industrial computing power from today's centralized machine control in a factory, down closer to the actual machines on the factory floor. Maxim continues to provide innovative industrial communication and power products that create pathways to enable the promise of Industry 4.0. Some examples of relevant IC solutions.