Finally get the most out of IO-Link: Automation sits down with Pepperl+Fuchs W

hen it comes to sensors, the path often can lead to Pepperl+Fuchs.

But sensors alone are no longer sufficient - customers want comprehensive communication solutions from a single source. That is why the manufacturer is fully committed to IO-Link, and has

strengthened its communication solutions by acquiring the business activities of industrial Ethernet pioneer Comtrol. In this interview with A&D, Dr. Thomas Sebastiany, director of the systems business unit, he explains the added value that this brings and how Pepperl+Fuchs supports its customers beyond IO-Link.

Automation: Why do you believe IO-Link is a basis for communication with intelligent sensor technology in Industry 4.0 scenarios?

Dr. Sebastiany: It starts with an absolutely essential point: IO-Link is the only system to have the backing of all the major sensor manufacturers. As a globally standardised technology, IO-Link allows for continuous and bidirectional communication between the control level and the lowest level sensor/actuator level. With this future-oriented interface, users can easily parameterise the sensors during operation, carry out extensive diagnosis, and can read out more than just the pure process data.

A: However, users acceptance of IO-Link hasn't been as widespread as expected. What are the reasons for this and is it changing?

Dr. S: In the past few years, manufacturers have flooded the market with ‘cloud-ready’ IO-Link sensors, but users have been left to deal with the technology on their own. Users were left to wonder what advantages it really offered and, above all, how they could easily make use of it. This deterred many from investing in the technology, but this is now changing drastically.

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Here at Pepperl+Fuchs, we have focused on providing our customers with the necessary infrastructure and software tools from the outset, so that the added value of IO-Link is immediately available. This allows users see the benefits of intelligent sensor technology that can do more than just read out a distance, for example; it can also provide the degree of sensor contamination, making predictive maintenance very easy.

A: But not everything can be achieved with IO-Link at sensor level?

Dr. S: This is true, but most things can! And for cases such as long conveyors and connecting multiple machines, where IO-Link is less suitable as a point- to-point connection, ASi is the perfect addition. That is exactly why, in addition to IO-Link, we've also had a comprehensive and proven AS- Interface product portfolio for a long time. This bus system is extremely easy to use and is ideal for connecting simple binary sensors and actuators to the ASi cable via piercing technology.

A: Pepperl+Fuchs already offers a wide range of solutions for industrial communication. Why did it take over Comtrol (now: P+F Comtrol)?

Dr. S: We want to establish ourselves further in Ethernet-based communication. The solutions from P+F Comtrol, a pioneer in the field of industrial Ethernet, complement our previous solution portfolio perfectly. P+F Comtrol has highly intelligent solutions involving IO-Link masters, gateways, and switches. With these communication solutions and the expertise of the P+F Comtrol team, we can now offer our customers even better industrial networks tailored to individual requirements. What's more, P+F Comtrol is a specialist in handling all kinds of data, meaning we now have the perfect interpreters between the network worlds. P+F Comtrol helps us obtain all sensor data at the edge of the production network. From this point on, nothing stands in the way of communication with IT and cloud level.

Pepperl+Fuchs 

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