Sensors play an important role as “organs of perception” in automated solutions. To implement Industry 4.0 concepts in the automation industry, sensors do not only need to provide measured values or signals, but the latter also need to be communicated. This type of communication should always be simple and efficient – from sensor level via control and process control level up to company level. This is the only way to benefit from the many advantages offered by Industry 4.0.
ifm opts for IO-Link to ensure simple and efficient digital sensor communication. This interface, which is integrated in almost all new sensors that ifm puts on the market, is added to the standard analogue interfaces such as 4…20 mA. What is more, IO-Link has the potential for replacing analogue transfer of measured values. Since IO-Link data transmission is digital, measured values cannot be distorted by interference on the cable. Another great advantage of IO-Link transmission is the option to add further information, such as status information of the sensor, and to communicate it simultaneously. Also when it comes to sensor configuration, IO-Link offers many advantages: since parameter settings can, for example, be directly adopted from an IO master. Hence, time-consuming sensor setting is no longer necessary.
The new generation of IO-Link masters from ifm is extremely robust and offers two Ethernet ports with a switch for Profinet. The LR Device software is used to configure the connected sensors and actuators. The intuitive software finds all IO-Link masters in the Ethernet network and creates an overview of the whole plant. This is something entirely new on the market.
Additionally, integrating sensors with IO-Link makes it possible to use sensor data for higher-level ERP systems. For this, ifm offers the Linerecorder. It enables bidirectional communication between many different interfaces. This allows communication between ERP systems and data from units at field, control and process control level. With this system, the data can be transmitted directly to the ERP system without putting additional strain on the PLC in the automation solution. ifm has termed this direct sensor data path, which bypasses the control level, “Y path” because the data reaches both the PLC and the company management level by splitting up like the letter Y.
ifm is fully convinced that IO-Link is the foundation for a successful implementation of all Industry 4.0 concepts. This is why all new ifm sensors come with an IO-Link interface as a standard feature. Currently, ifm’s product range includes about 500 IO-Link products, and every year 100 to 150 new products are added.
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