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How IO-Link Speeds Up Sensor Engineering

If intelligent sensors and actuators are to be integrated into an automation system, IO-Link is ideal for communication. But what tangible benefits does the technology offer? What is the ROI? 

The airy industrial hall has a transfer station with two production robots, with an optical distance sensor in the middle. The core of the latest customer project from the automation company Aerne Engineering is already working. Of course, the finished system for positioning and processing plastic products should also work error-free and efficiently at the customer’s site. 

This requires, among other things, powerful sensors that solve specific challenges in the best possible way. These include, for example, deep black or reflective surfaces that make object recognition difficult. In the past, selecting and testing suitable sensors was often even more cumbersome, but modern offerings with sensor handling supported by IO-Link are now convincing. The time savings can be up to 30 per cent with complex analogue measurements.

User-Friendly Communication With Smart Sensors Via IO-Link

A smart sensor provides the primary measurement data and performs significantly more thanks to the integrated microcontroller. Its extended functions can optimize the measurement physics for specific applications, evaluate the measurement signal and provide additional device and environment information. They make controlling systems and machines even more robustly and flexibly possible. 

IO-Link enables efficient communication with smart sensors and intuitive parameterization in this case. For this reason, Baumer also makes IO-Link available as a standard for all sensor technologies as a communication or parameterization interface. At Aerne Engineering, the special machine construction division focuses on various new challenges. As a result, there are always new metrological application challenges that we have to solve quickly. This often calls for new approaches that enable highly efficient and fast solutions. Object recognition plays a major role in customer orders for factory automation. 

This requires sensors that reliably detect products such as baked goods, transport crates, plastic pipes or metal parts. Surfaces and materials make special demands on sensor performance and parameterization, which are difficult for sensors to detect. This can be transparent packaging, highly reflective steel or deep black plastic products.

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The Software Supports Sensor Engineering

It is a manufacturer-independent engineering tool developers can use to find the right IO-Link sensor for their application more quickly. To this end, it supports users in all phases of sensor selection and commissioning:

  1. Select sensor: Before purchasing an IO-Link device, interested parties can quickly and easily check whether the selected sensor provides the desired functions. For this purpose, the Baumer Sensor Suite offers unrestricted and direct access to all publicly available IODDs (IO Device Descriptions). In addition, it visualizes the IODD in a format that is easy for humans to read and quickly understand. All this is supplemented by an importer for local IODDs managed in their own library.
  2. Evaluate: Once you have found suitable sensors, you can evaluate them in a second step using the stored data on the computer, i.e. without a real sensor, and further narrow down the selection.
  3. Parameterization: You only need the physical sensor for parameterization. You connect the sensor to the computer and see what the sensor sees. The direct visual feedback allows the IO-Link sensor to be parameterized intuitively. For example, Patrick Kurer selects the Windows mode for the Switching Signal Channel (SSC) function and conveniently defines the switching points via the graphical interface without entering individual parameter data.
  4. Testing: After parameterization, tests must prove the system works properly. In the specific example of the transfer station above, the question is: Does the sensor reliably detect the transfer object under all lighting conditions? The control program usually has to be adapted for these test runs. The Baumer Sensor Suite makes this step redundant. Precise digitally measured values ​​​​facilitate implementation in the controller.