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ORGANS OF PERCEPTION How new sensor and encoder standards are fit for Industry 4.0?

Nov 10, 2022

Sensors play an important role as ‘organs of perception’ in automated solutions, while new encoders are flexible for different applications in the field of motion control. The article highlights how new standards set for sensors and encoders make them fit for Industry 4.0.

To implement Industry 4.0 concepts in the automation industry, sensors not only need to provide measured values or signals, but the latter also needs to be communicated. This type of communication should always be simple and efficient – from the sensor level via control and process control levels up to the company level. This is the only way to benefit from the many advantages offered by Industry 4.0.

IO-Link potential

ifm opts for IO-Link to ensure simple and efficient digital sensor communication. This interface, which is integrated into almost all new sensors that ifm puts on the market, is added to the standard analogue interfaces such as 4...20 mA. What is more, IO-Link has the potential to replace analogue transfer of measured values. Since IO-Link data transmission is digital, measured values cannot be distorted by interference on the cable.

Another great advantage of IO-Link transmission is the option to add further information, such as the status information of the sensor, and to communicate it simultaneously. Also, when it comes to sensor configuration, IO-Link offers many advantages, since parameter settings can, for example, be directly adopted from an IO master. Hence, a time-consuming sensor setting is no longer necessary.

The new generation of IO-Link masters from ifm is extremely robust and offers two Ethernet ports with a switch for Profinet. The LR device software is used to configure the connected sensors and actuators. The intuitive software finds all IO-Link masters in the Ethernet network and creates an overview of the whole plant. This is something entirely new in the market.

Integrating sensors with IO-Link

Additionally, integrating sensors with IO-Link makes it possible to use sensor data for higher-level ERP systems. For this, the Linerecorder is offered. It enables bidirectional communication between many different interfaces. This allows communication between ERP systems and data from units at field, control, and process control levels. With this system, the data can be transmitted directly to the ERP system without putting additional strain on the PLC in the automation solution. ifm has termed this direct sensor data path, which bypasses the control level, the Y path because the data reaches both the PLC and the company management level by splitting up like the letter Y. IO-Link is the foundation for a successful implementation of all Industry 4.0 concepts.

More than just encoders

Magnetic operating principles in combination with unique signal evaluation supported by powerful microcontrollers: These features make the new encoders a real alternative to traditional photoelectric encoders. Thanks to extended intelligent functions the new encoders are flexible for different applications in the field of motion control. The display, operating keys, and user-friendly parameter setting and diagnostics via IO-Link make them unique.

Three operating modes with the performance line

Firstly, they can be used as incremental encoders. The resolution between 2 and 10,000 pulses/revolution can be freely set. The units can also be used as counters. The direction of counting (up/down) and the switch points can also be selected. The third operating mode is used for rotational speed monitoring. The user sets a rotational speed range. The outputs switch when the current value is above or below the limit values. That means that the encoders operate automatically as rotational speed or standstill monitoring systems.

Display ensures a clear overview

All functions and parameters can be set on the unit via push buttons and LED displays. During operation, the current pulse, count, or rotational speed values are displayed according to the set mode. The innovation: The two colours (red/green) show the user at once if the machine is in the acceptable range or if limit values have been exceeded. Furthermore, the display can be rotated electronically by 180º, which allows flexible installation positions.

Another innovation: The parameters can be set not only directly on the new encoders but also in a user-friendly way via IO-Link. These options for communication ensure that the units are more than fit for Industry 4.0.

Practical use orientation

The high shock and vibration resistance enables use for applications in harsh environments. A practical detail: The cable entry or the rotatable M12 connection for connector units can be used both radially and axially. In the end, the selection of the suitable encoder is reduced to the matching flange and the shaft — everything else can be freely configured by the user. ifm offers a basic version for users who use the unit as an encoder and do not need the push buttons and display. This version can also be set completely via IO-Link.

Courtesy: ifm electronic India

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  • Setting new standards with the new encoders making the user fit for Industry 4.0

    Setting new standards with the new encoders making the user fit for Industry 4.0

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