Vision Realized in Advancing Industry 4.0 Solutions

January 24, 2017

By: Jeff DeAngelis
Managing Director of Business Management, Maxim Integrated


Over the past five years at Maxim, my team has been focusing on creating industrial solutions that provide a pathway to achieve the promise of Industry 4.0. These new smart factories will level the playing field by improving productivity, enhancing quality/reliability, and achieving operational efficiency that makes manufacturing a cost-effective proposition and allows countries who have outsourced manufacturing over the years to re-shore this capability and create new economies.

These smart industrial control systems are the machines that touch our daily lives. When you stop to think about it, they can be simple machines like vending machines, your espresso maker, soda dispenser, or a mall machine the puts your name on a hat, engraves a glass, or prints some image on a T-shirt. It could be a refrigerator, washer/dryer, ATM, coin counting machine, DVD movie dispenser, gas pump, gaming machine, or even a batting machine. They can also be more complex systems such as a car manufacturing line, a process automation line where jellybeans or chocolate peanut butter cups are made, or even the heart and soul of a robot. 

Our overarching goal has been around empowering design innovation so that industrial automation manufacturers can achieve the benefits of Industry 4.0. We’ve also aimed to provide an industrial toolbox for design engineers to simply bring their own industrial control system creation into focus to realize their own visions.

The Power of Industry 4.0 in the Palm of Your Hand

In 2014 we worked on a micro PLC platform to demonstrate a 10x reduction in size and 50% savings in power compared to standard PLCs available in the market at that time. We showcased this technology at Electronica 2014 in Munich, Germany, with the aim of demonstrating that it was possible to put the power of Industry 4.0 in the palm of your hand. It was an awesome creative challenge, and this experience led to many new discussions, products, and the idea for a new open-source Industrial Hardware Platform.

Fast forward to 2016, and the creation of this open-source Industrial Hardware Platform demonstrates another powerful aspect of Industry 4.0: adaptive manufacturing. This powerful capability enables a manufacturing line to adapt to different products by re-configuring sensors on-the-fly using IO-Link technology, eliminating the need for operator intervention on the manufacturing floor. This new development platform allows for rapid prototyping of any industrial control system—limited only by the engineer’s imagination. To accomplish this dream, we created a new portable industrial platform that consists of an ultra-small PLC reference design controlled by an iPad or iPhone. It literally fits into your pocket! Imagine the simple elegance of having all that industrial control potential right in your pocket. 

That’s the power of our Pocket IO PLC Development Platform. This reference design is a teaching and quick prototyping platform for creating any industrial control systems you dare to dream up. Our hope is that makers, industrial engineers, students, and universities see the value of Pocket IO as a teaching aid in labs, so that it becomes a strong foundation that can be built upon to bring project concepts to life. 

The Pocket IO PLC Development Platform can be used to create industrial control systems that users can control via an iPad or iPhone

Maxim Pocket IO PLC Development Platform

Small Footprint, Rich Functionality

Pocket IO packs enormous capability in a footprint of less than 10 cubic inches. It provides 30 IOs including 4x IO link master ports, 8 digital outputs with Maxim’s safe / fast demag technology, and 3x encoder/motor driver ports. It’s also 2.5x smaller than the uPLC footprint realized in 2014. This combination of IOs and technology enables industrial engineers, students, and makers to interface with a vast array of sensors. The platform then combines this capability to initiate an action that drives an actuator or controls a motor using Maxim's portfolio of industrial communication products integrated into a very compact footprint. 

The use of Maxim's advanced industrial power products also reduces the power dissipation of Pocket IO by another 30%, to the point where it can be run from standard AAA or AA batteries. By combining this hardware platform capability with the power of Intel's Edison and the Arduino Sketch open-source IDE programming tools, you can quickly create industrial control systems that can be controlled by an iPad or iPhone.

Now that Pocket IO has been released into the market, we hope you will find it helpful to realize your own dream machine.