With the emergence of IO-Link Wireless, the wireless extension of IO-Link, the industrial automation sector has witnessed a significant leap forward in terms of flexibility, agility, and additional benefits.
In the Industry 4.0 industrial landscape, efficient communication between devices and systems is crucial for optimizing productivity and ensuring seamless and enhanced operations. This is where IO-Link plays a vital role, as a revolutionary standardized and universal machine-to-machine communication protocol, designed to replace analog and digital protocols, and enables smart 2-way communication. With the emergence of IO-Link Wireless, the wireless extension of IO-Link, the industrial automation sector has witnessed a significant leap forward in terms of flexibility, agility, and additional benefits. In this blog post, we will explore the world of IO-Link and the advantages that IO-Link Wireless brings to the industrial table, along with CoreTigo’s IO-Link Wireless solutions.
What is IO-Link?
IO-Link is a point-to-point standardized communication protocol that facilitates the exchange of monitoring and control data between sensors and actuators in industrial automation applications. It acts as a bridge, connecting devices at the field level with the control system master at the automation level, enabling integration and enhanced functionality. As opposed to Analog or Digital signals, IO-Link facilitates bi-directional communication, allowing for the exchange of both process data and valuable diagnostic information.
At its core, the IO-Link protocol operates on a master-device (also known as controller-device) architecture, where a master device serves as the central controller and communicates with multiple IO-Link devices in a single network. The communication is carried out over a standard 3-conductor cable, which provides power to the connected devices as well as facilitates two-way data communication. Not only does the IO-Link protocol ensure high-speed and reliable communication between the master and devices, but it also supports various data transmission modes, including cyclic, acyclic, and event-driven communication, catering to diverse automation requirements. Furthermore, IO-Link supports real-time diagnostics, enabling efficient monitoring and predictive maintenance.
The IO-Link protocol is a comprehensive communications standard designed for efficient and flexible interactions between industrial automation devices. The protocol encompasses various key components, including communication ports, modes, data types, and transmission speeds. These communication ports, located on the master, serve as the physical interface to connect with terminal devices and facilitate the bridging to fieldbus or Ethernet networks. Depending on the application, four communication modes can be utilized: IO-Link mode enables bi-directional communications, DI mode configures the port as an input, DQ mode as an output, and Deactivated mode simply deactivates the port.
Benefits of IO-Link
As an advanced communication protocol, IO-Link delivers several unique benefits even in its wired capacity, these are all enhanced once switching to IO-Link Wireless, as we’ll see in the following parts.
• Enhanced Data Availability & Diagnostic Capabilities: Given its two-way information nature, IO-Link provides advanced diagnostic features, enabling real-time monitoring of device status, health, and performance. This enables proactive maintenance, reduces unplanned downtime, and optimizes overall system reliability and efficiency. It also provides real-time access to process data and sensor information, enabling faster decision-making and increased operational visibility. This enhances overall system performance and allows for intelligent automation strategies.
• Simplified Wiring: IO-Link significantly simplifies the wiring process in industrial automation setups. By utilizing a single standard cable for power and data communication, it reduces cabling complexity, minimizes installation time, and lowers material costs. Once evolving to IO-Link Wireless the installation becomes even simpler, as illustrated in the next sections.
• Remote Device Parameterization: IO-Link allows for remote configuration and parameterization of devices. This eliminates the need for manual adjustments, simplifies device setup, and enables quick changes in operational settings, enhancing flexibility and reducing downtime during reconfiguration.
• Interoperability and Flexibility: As in IO-Link Wireless, IO-Link follows a standardized communication protocol, ensuring interoperability among devices from different manufacturers. This provides flexibility in selecting and integrating devices, allowing for seamless communication across the automation system.
IO-Link’s versatility extends to the wide range of sensors that can be connected using it. IO-Link sensors offer advanced functionalities and diagnostic capabilities, providing valuable insights into the production process. These sensors can measure variables such as temperature, pressure, distance, and more, allowing for precise control and monitoring in industrial applications. As an open-code protocol, IO-Link is vendor agnostic, meaning machine builders, system integrators etc. may use IO-Link sensors by different vendors, without being tied down to a specific one, as is the case with IO-Link Wireless.
IO-Link Wireless: IO-Link Enhanced
IO-Link Wireless builds upon the foundation of IO-Link protocol by providing wireless connectivity to IO-Link devices. It leverages advanced wireless technologies to enable seamless and reliable communication in industrial environments. IO-Link Wireless retains the advantages of IO-Link while introducing additional benefits that are specifically tailored to the demands of the modern industry.
The IO-Link Wireless protocol was developed as a global wireless communication standard to replace cables in factory automation for remote sensor/actuator control and monitoring. It builds upon the existing IO-Link protocol (IEC 61131-9) and extends its capabilities. With a reliability level of 1e-9 Packet Error Rate (PER), IO-Link Wireless uses a repetition mechanism for critical data to ensure low latency. This mechanism is automatically implemented and controlled by the radio’s physical layer, initiated based on ACK\NACK, and protected by CRC32.
The protocol uses Gaussian Frequency Shift Keying (GFSK) modulation, known for its robustness against interference, which makes devices more immune to noise and reliable. IO-Link Wireless ensures deterministic latency of 5 msec communication with up to 40 nodes (sensors, actuators, or I/O hubs) per Wireless Master. Each 5 msec cycle consists of 3 sub-cycles, each lasting 1.6 msec, communicated on different frequencies. The downlink portion is broadcast by the Wireless Master to all Wireless Devices, and the uplink portion is sent from the devices in a time-multiplexing message during defined timeslots.
Operating in the unlicensed 2.4GHz Industrial, Scientific, and Medical (ISM) band, IO-Link Wireless is designed to coexist with existing wireless networks. To avoid air collisions with other wireless systems like Wi-Fi, it employs blocklisting and adaptive frequency hopping mechanisms. Blocklisting prevents potential conflicts with Wi-Fi networks by using approximately eighty 1MHz-wide frequency channels. By mapping blocklisted Wi-Fi channels to a defined format, IO-Link Wireless can coexist with Wi-Fi networks operating in the 2.4GHz ISM band.
Frequency hopping further ensures optimal performance and reduces interference impact. It changes frequency channels for each transmission, resulting in a PER of 1e-9, comparable to wired connections in terms of reliability.
Benefits of IO-Link Wireless vs. IO-Link
In the recent era, industrial automation has witnessed remarkable advancements, attributed to the game-changer IO-Link Wireless technology. Building upon the success of its wired predecessor, IO-Link, IO-Link Wireless has opened new possibilities and enhanced productivity in the realm of industrial control systems. Thus, the benefits offered by IO-Link Wireless transcend its wired counterpart, as illustrated below.
1. Improved Scalability
Compared to wired IO-Link, IO-Link Wireless offers a heightened level of scalability. Its wireless connectivity allows for more flexible and adaptable installation and network expansion. Incorporating additional IO-Link devices into the network no longer requires extensive rewiring, ensuring swift scalability to accommodate changing operational needs. IO-Link Wireless has been carefully designed to uphold low latency and high reliability, even while supporting a large number of devices. A single IO-Link Wireless Master can seamlessly handle up to 40 IO-Link Wireless Devices, cleverly divided into 5 tracks. In turn, each track within a Wireless Master can efficiently manage up to 8 IO-Link Wireless Devices.
To optimize medium utilization, all tracks of a Wireless Master operate simultaneously on different frequencies, guaranteeing an optimal communication environment. An IO-Link Wireless Cell further extends the system’s capabilities, accommodating up to 3 Masters and a grand total of 120 IO-Link Wireless Devices, highlighting the exceptional scalability offered by this cutting-edge technology.
2. Increased Assembly Line Efficiency
Wireless communication eliminates the need for physical connections between IO-Link devices, reducing cabling complexity on the assembly line. This streamlined setup not only saves time but also reduces the risk of human errors during installation and maintenance.
IO-Link Wireless has proven to significantly enhance assembly line efficiency within manufacturing industries. By eliminating the need for traditional cables, this technology offers increased flexibility and mobility in the assembly process. Through seamless communication between sensors, actuators, and the central control system, real-time data exchange enables prompt adjustments, optimizing production flow. The simplified installation and maintenance process, thanks to the absence of wiring, reduces setup time and facilitates quicker reconfigurations of assembly lines. With the ability to connect multiple devices simultaneously, IO-Link Wireless enhances productivity and minimizes downtime. Operators can easily relocate sensors and actuators, enabling dynamic adjustments, and fostering agile and adaptable manufacturing processes. Consequently, assembly line efficiency is significantly improved, resulting in increased productivity and reduced downtime.
3. Flexible Integration of IO-Link Sensors
IO-Link Wireless provides greater flexibility in sensor placement and repositioning. Without the constraint of wired connections, sensors can be easily moved or relocated as needed, allowing for faster reconfiguration of production lines. This flexibility enables manufacturers to optimize their processes, adapt to changing production requirements, and achieve better overall system performance.
As CoreTigo’s IO-Link Wireless Devices enable the conversion of IO-Link, Digital, and Analog signals into IO-Link Wireless, it allows seamless integration of such sensors as well as actuators, while being vendor agnostic. Being unbound, these can now be installed virtually anywhere on the machine – from moving parts to hard-to-reach-places, even when there is no line of sight.
4. Reduced Deployment and Maintenance Costs:
The elimination of physical cables and connectors associated with traditional IO-Link reduces material and labor costs. IO-Link Wireless enables cost-effective deployments, as it eliminates the need for dedicated wiring infrastructure. The wireless architecture also reduces the risk of cable damage, reducing maintenance and replacement expenses in the long run.
5. Advanced Sensor Diagnostics
IO-Link Wireless enhances diagnostic capabilities by providing real-time sensor data from anywhere on the machine or production line. This enables proactive maintenance, as potential issues can be identified and addressed promptly, minimizing unplanned downtime. Detailed diagnostic information such as temperature, vibration, rotation, humidity, voltage, and signal quality can be monitored wirelessly, improving overall system reliability, and enabling predictive maintenance strategies.
Being an industrial protocol, IO-Link Wireless enables sending this data directly to the PLC and other cloud-based and on-premise industrial applications for immediate process and analytics.
CoreTigo IO-Link Wireless Solutions
CoreTigo’s IO-Link wireless solutions are unlocking new possibilities for machines and production lines, enhancing their flexibility and capacity while maintaining cost-effectiveness. By implementing smart and ultra-reliable wireless communication within the factory, CoreTigo enables applications that were previously unattainable, resulting in improved operational efficiency, production optimization, and increased adaptability. The solutions offered by CoreTigo cater to a range of critical areas in industrial settings, such as Transport Tracks & Conveying Systems, Robots & Cobots, Retrofit & Condition Monitoring, Smart Machine Tooling, Rotary Tables & Carousels, and Machine Optimization & Data Collection. By embracing these innovative wireless solutions, businesses can elevate their intelligence in managing operations, fostering sustainability, and achieving overall enhanced performance.
IO-Link Wireless represents a significant advancement in industrial automation, providing a wireless alternative to the established IO-Link protocol. The advantages it offers, such as improved scalability, increased assembly line efficiency, flexible integration of IO-Link sensors, reduced manufacturing costs, and advanced sensor diagnostics, make it a compelling choice for manufacturing and industrial professionals looking to optimize their operations and offering. CoreTigo’s IO-Link Wireless solutions bring these benefits to life, providing a reliable and efficient wireless communication platform for the industrial automation sector. By embracing IO-Link Wireless, manufacturers can unlock new levels of efficiency and productivity, propelling their operations into the future of industrial automation.
Reut possesses extensive expertise as an engineering leader, with more than 12 years of experience across diverse domains, including industrial applications, wireless technologies, and electrical engineering. Before joining CoreTigo, she held a position at Mellanox Technologies, a company later acquired by Nvidia. Reut currently spearheads multifaceted R&D teams, overseeing activities spanning firmware and hardware development, verification, and system engineering. In 2022, Reut’s accomplishments were acknowledged by Women in Industry 4.0, which recognized her as one of Israel’s top female leaders in the industrial sector. She holds a BSc in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Tel-Aviv University.