IO-Link: taking major strides towards Industry 4.0

Fieldbus-neutral point-to-point IO-Link communication is growing strongly. The number of IO-Link nodes rose by 47 percent in 2016 alone. IO-Link is thus the first choice for connecting switching devices and simple sensors, in particular, to the data world. Its great advantages are very low costs and simple integration via existing cables. It thus enables the expansion of Industry 4.0 solutions into the smallest inductive sensors, so that state and parameterization data can be obtained from throughout the entire plant or factory. Whereby, simplicity and producer-neutrality are the major benefits that make it easy for users to work with IO-Link.

The IO-Link protocol has also been greatly further developed in recent months in order to open up new possibilities for users. The new IODD Finder now provides a central source of descriptive device files for almost every producer.

The provision of IO-Link Safety System Extensions is particularly important for SICK, as a leading producer of safety sensors. Solutions for functional safety up to SIL3 can now also be easily and reliably implemented with the specification for IO-Link Safety, published in April 2017. The new specification allows reliable parameterization, simple device exchange, joint connection of safe and non-safe devices to an IO-Link Master, and connection to fieldbus safety protocols. Economical implementation means that even the simplest safety devices (such as emergency stop switches) can now be integrated.

The new IO-Link profile for updating firmware was published in early 2017. This allows the simple retroactive expansion of the firmware of an installed sensor with additional functions and with conventional IO-Link Masters – and all this via the familiar standard cable. Whereby, authentication and test algorithms ensure that only approved updates are installed and that these are run correctly in the sensor.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christoph Müller is responsible for Product Management and Marketing for the Global Business Center Industrial Integration Space, and thus all SICK's activities involving vertical integration and data-based solutions for Industry 4.0.