Common language for sensors and actuators

Article of 31 July 2015 

Machine language IO Link wireless in production

Machines that can communicate with each other independently – that is the vision of the factory of the future. All the facilities within the production department will be digitally networked.

Automation components will thus contain increasingly integrated technologies for networking purposes. The prerequisite for this is a common machine language – as is also the case for communication between people. A “standard language” of this kind is expected to be developed and established with IO Link wireless and then used by as many machine manufacturers as possible. Together with 60 other companies, Festo is therefore getting involved in the IO Link cooperation, in which companies are jointly working on this important standard.

Secure, wireless communication

IO-Link wireless is the first industry standard that will make it possible to communicate quickly and wirelessly within production facilities. When it comes to exchanging data without cables, we often think of the WLAN connection to the Internet. The WLAN technology is also used in an industrial environment to network entire production halls.

For various reasons, this kind of communication is comparatively unreliable. IO Link wireless, on the other hand, is suitable for communication within automated production facilities due to the defined short reaction times, as commands often have to be transmitted in a few milliseconds. The base station is able to use its signals to control many sensors or actuators, for example valve terminals, which in turn coordinate the production sequence. Wireless communication between sensors and actuators is also important because it reduces the amount of cabling and prevents broken cables, which lead to machinery failures.

So that data can be reliably exchanged within the machine, a sturdy form of wireless technology is important. The IO-Link wireless connection is not interfered with by other wireless connections, like a company's WLAN, because the technology masks out allocated frequency bands.

The following figure shows a typical allocation of the 2.4 GHz band with three WLAN subscribers (wide data packages) and the small IO-Link wireless packages that fit in the free gaps.

IO Link wireless

Application areas for IO Link wireless

Because here it is often important that the different sections of a robot can move without cables. At Festo the technology will be used for the production of sealing cartridges, which are fitted in many standard valves. The high quantities require fully automated assembly, where the fast IO Link wireless technology is beneficial.