April 4, 2019
| By: Christine Young
Blogger, Maxim Integrated
Inside Ford’s German manufacturing plant, 3-foot-tall cobots team up with human colleagues to fit shock absorbers onto cars. Their accuracy, dexterity, and strength complement the skills that the people bring to the factory floor. In the U.K., Ocado, the region’s largest online grocery delivery company, relies on robot arms to pick produce and on other robots to handle packing the boxes for delivery. Nike and Adidas are investing substantially in automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI) to increase manufacturing efficiencies while streamlining costs.
Notice a trend here?
For its 2018 Industry 4.0 study, PWC interviewed 1,155 manufacturing executives in 26 countries and noted some key findings:
By going digital and embracing the principles of Industry 4.0, companies in areas such as manufacturing, fulfillment, and agriculture are not only ramping up productivity, but also their ability to dynamically adapt to new or changing requirements. Instead of sending technicians to the factory floor to recalibrate or even change sensors, the equipment can be adjusted remotely—or it will perform the adjustments on its own. Intelligence at the edge of the smart factory gives the machines the ability to autonomously optimize their performance based on real-time health and status information. To enable these automated capabilities, the underlying technologies have to be tiny, rugged, high performing, and power efficient.
Figure 1. Automated factories rely on tiny, power-efficient components like IO-Link transceivers.
IO-Link Moves Intelligence to the Edge
IO-Link point-to-point communication technology (IEC 61131-9) turns regular sensors into intelligent sensors. The technology consists of an IO-Link master that interfaces with a higher level controller, like a programmable logic controller (PLC), and controls the communication with connected IO-Link devices (such as sensors and actuators). The connection between the IO-Link master and the IO-Link devices utilizes standard connectors, typically M12, and a 3- or 4-wire cable up to 20 meters. Each of the master’s multiple ports connects to a unique IO-Link device, which operates in either SIO or bidirectional communication mode. The technology is designed to work with fieldbus, industrial Ethernet, or other existing industrial architectures. IO-Link technology helps to move intelligence closer to the edge of an automated factory.
In IO-Link applications, transceivers provide the physical layer interface to a microcontroller running the data-link layer protocol, which manages message exchange between the IO-Link master and device. They support up to 24V digital inputs and outputs. To choose the right transceiver for an IO-Link application, pay close attention to the power dissipation in addition to size. These criteria are essential because smart factories, particularly as intelligence moves to the edge, increasingly demand miniaturized components.
One of the newest IO-Link device transceivers for industrial sensors and IO-Link sensor and actuator devices is the MAX22513, a surge-protected, dual-driver device with an integrated DC-DC buck regulator. It is the industry’s smallest, most power efficient transceiver, delivering 4x lower power dissipation and 3x smaller size compared to the closest competitive solution. The features integrated into this device minimize the need for multiple discrete solutions, an approach that isn’t suited to today’s advanced manufacturing environments. The IC is available in a 28-pin QFN package (3.5mm x 5.5mm) and a WLP package (4.1mm x 2.1mm). Support for I2C requires only two communications pins on the sensor’s small microcontroller, freeing up the limited number of GPIOs for other purposes. Low 2Ω (typical) on-resistance drivers and a 300mA (maximum load) DC-DC regulator with 80% efficiency contribute to the low power dissipation.
Get more details on factory automation technologies, including application notes, tutorials, and videos.