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Omron’s first IO-Link devices will lead to smarter production

30 June, 2016

Omron has announced several ranges of IO-Link-compatible photoelectric and proximity sensors which, it says, will make it easier to integrate industrial equipment with the Internet of Things. Omron describes the launch of its first IO-Link sensors as “a big step” towards making production equipment smarter and combining factory automation components with ICT (information and communications technology) systems.

Omron’s announcement follows Toyota’s recent decision to standardise on EtherCat for its industrial Ethernet communications and to implement IO-Link at its plants around the world.

IO-Link adds information and communication capabilities to devices such as sensors and actuators. For example, Omron’s new photoelectric sensors can monitor incident light levels, thus identifying any build-ups of dirt that could affect their performance. IO-Link is specified in the specified in the IEC 61131-9 standard.

Omron says that as manufacturers move towards high-variety, low-volume production, there is growing need for them to add IoT functions to their production lines and equipment to improve productivity and quality.

The new IO-Link-compatible sensors can be identified individually and incorporate “unique” abnormality detection and condition-monitoring functions that, Omron predicts, will cut equipment failures. They will allow host controllers, such as PLCs, to gather critical data from equipment through via EtherCat masters.

Omron gives the following potential benefits of its IO-Link sensors:

Omron is planning a wide range of IO-Link-compatible products

Identification of individual sensors will improve changeover efficiency By identifying individual devices, users can check errors such as disconnected or wrongly-connected sensors, as well as installation mistakes. Because several sensors can be programmed simultaneously from a host controller, commissioning and changeover times could be reduced “sharply”.

•  Error-detection functions will reduce equipment downtimes  If disconnections or short-circuits occur in their wiring, the IO-Link sensors can inform their host controllers in real time, making it easy to identify the cause of equipment stoppages, and to rectify the problem quickly.

•  Condition-monitoring will allow predictive maintenance without having to stop equipment  Omron’s IO-Link proximity sensors can alert users of any changes caused by wear and vibration before false detections or failures occur. Similarly, its photoelectric sensors can monitor incident light levels, revealing any build-ups of dust and moisture in real time, thus allowing maintenance to be carried out before false detection occurs, and reducing the risk of stoppages.

Omron’s initial IO-Link sensors include its E3Z photoelectric sensors, E3S-DC colour mark photoelectric sensors, and E2E and E2EQ proximity sensors. It is also offering two series of IO-Link masters and has plans to introduce other IO-Link compatible devices.

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