How IO-Link Wireless Enables Digital Transformation: Part II

By Naresh Kumar Surepelly

Overview

This report is the second of two reports, summarizing the presentations given during the IO-Link session at the ARC European Industry Forum 2022. ARC invited industrial automation technology experts to speak about IO-Link technology and its evolution to IO-Link safety and wireless. They also explained how IO-Link wireless is enabling digital transformation by bridging the gap between OT and IT operations. Several IO-Link wireless applications, industrial use cases, a case study, and possible new business models for OEMs using IO-Link wireless technology are discussed in the report.

Reliable, Flexible, Available: IO-Link Wireless in Practice

Gordon Göhrmann, Product Manager for IO systems at Hilscher, spoke about IO-Link’s standardized IO-Technology, key features of IO-Link Wireless Technology, and industrial use cases. He explained that wired IO-Link does provide many advantages but also some disadvantages. IO-Link defines the wiring of sensors and IO-Link masters on the sensor level. Each point-to-point connection requires a cable to connect to a master, which is a drawback of hardwired IO-Link because users must lay one cable for each port with a maximum length of twenty meters. A system with many end points consequently requires a huge number of cables. Thus, users need to wire every endpoint in the factory automation process, which increases the complexity of cabling, driving up installation costs. With wired IO-Link, sensors are equipped with a stiffer cable, which due to their inflexibility cannot be used in hard-to-reach areas.

IO-Link Wireless

Göhrmann emphasized that IO-link Wireless offers key features that mitigate the above-mentioned disadvantages.

  • Lower installation costs: With IO-Link wireless, no cables are required between the wireless devices and the master. A radio connection, operating in the license-free 2.4 GHz ISM band, is used to communicate with IO-Link devices. All that is required is a 24V power connection.
  • More communication channels: User can connect up to 40 channels to an IO-Link Wireless master, whereas a wired IO-link master only offers limited ports or slots. A wireless master can contain up to five transmission channels, each supporting up to 8 devices. Also, with IO-Link Wireless, access to hard-to-reach areas is easier as no physical communication cables are needed.

Use Cases

Fewer cables: Collaborative and industrial robots usually have a relatively high degree of freedom, i.e., a high number of movable joints. Usually, sensors are attached to the robot arm to measure e.g., distance or to scan a barcode. In this case, wireless sensors are better suited than wired sensors and improve ease of maintenance while granting a greater flexibility to the robots.

Access to hard-to-reach areas: Conveyor belts in packaging lines require sensor bridges with a variety of sensors, for example, to scan packages or measure distances. Ready-to-use IO-Link Wireless Master and Bridge can replace wired counterparts providing cable-free communication. Due to their nature and the possible IP67 robust design, they can provide this also in applications that require hygienic standards. Rotating turntables have a high degree of freedom combining rotary movements and conveyor belts. This is a very complex area to install wired sensors. Wireless is well suited for such applications.

Achieve Autonomy of Movement: Automated guided vehicles need sensors for measuring distances and scanning barcodes. Wireless technology replaces trailing cables providing true autonomy.

I4.0 Intelligent & Wireless Machine Tooling

Gabi Daniely, chief strategy & marketing officer at CoreTigo, spoke about current market dynamics, machine tooling challenges, and key features of IO-Link Wireless and how it enables digital transformation. According to Daniely, two prominent challenges are the demand for a higher degree of customization and the global shortages due to supply chain disruptions and challenges.

Both challenges are forcing manufacturers to be more flexible, and to increase throughput and capacities. On the other side, manufacturers face a lack of skilled labor, while machines are becoming more complex to operate. A lack of flexibility and visibility is leading to non-optimized machine performance, to inefficient and expensive maintenance operations, and decreased throughput.

 

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Keywords: IO-Link, Industry 4.0, Digitalization, Sensors, Factory Automation, ARC Forum, IO-Link Wireless, Machine Tooling, Clamping, ARC Advisory Group.

 

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