IO-Link has established itself in the market faster than almost any other communication technology. This is confirmed by the number of members in the IO-Link member community and the current node counts. Weiss Robotics was the 100th company to join the member community.
In 2006 work on specification of the IO-Link standard began with just 21 companies. This ultimately led to publication of IEC 61131-9 in 2013. At the market launch in 2009, there were already 41 member companies on board. Now Joachim Lorenz, Speaker for the Steering Committee, welcomed Weiss Robotics GmbH & Co. KG as the 100th member of the IO-Link member community. He awarded the certificate to Dr. Karsten Weiß, Managing Director of Weiss Robotics, at the office of the mechatronics specialists in Ludwigsburg.
A communication system with many advantages
On the question of what motivated him to join the IO-Link member community, Dr. Karsten Weiß answered: "Based on customer needs we recognized early the need to enable intelligent communication in our products. That was already implemented with Profinet. That proved not to be enough, however, especially on the global market. For small companies like us, it is not feasible to develop, maintain, test, and support all interfaces such as Ethercat, Ethernet/IP, Profibus, and Powerlink. For small quantities, in particular, the effort and related costs are out of proportion to the benefits. The fieldbus-independent standard IO-Link is the ideal solution for us to allow us to connect our products to different systems and controllers worldwide."
The managing director also reported that IO-Link is not very complicated: "We were able to develop our own device stack based on the specification without any problems. No consultation, which some IO-Link members offer, was necessary. We received support from the "Technology Management Group" in Karlsruhe only for certification.
The next gripper modules, which should be available in the 2nd quarter of 2016 will contain an IO-Link interface and optionally a radio module. Customers can choose which bus system they want to use and connect the gripper modules easily using an IO-Link master. In this context Weiss Robotics would also be interested in a wireless variant of IO-Link. "The gripper modules and tactile sensors are very compact. It would be practical here if we could transmit the sensor signals wirelessly with the open communication standard," said Dr. Weiß.
The success story of IO-Link
The current node counts also reflect the arrival of IO-Link in the market. A notarized analysis found that the number of IO-Link nodes in the field nearly doubled from 2013 to 2014 to almost 2.2 million. Joachim Lorenz emphasized: "Experience from the fieldbus area has shown that a new technology takes approximately 10 years to establish itself in the automation market. With IO-Link we are just at the start of the market launch and are already demonstrating a stronger growth rate than was found in the fieldbus area in recent years."
IO-Link is the first IO technology for communicating with sensors and actuators to be adopted as an international standard (IEC 61131-9). The powerful point-to-point communication is based on the well-established 3-wire sensor and actuator connection technology without additional requirements for the cable material. IO-Link is thus not a fieldbus but rather an evolution of the previously well-proven connection technology for sensors and actuators. The advantages of IO-Link technology include simplified installation, automated parameter assignment, and expanded diagnostics. Due to low implementation and component costs, an IO-Link interface can be integrated even in price-sensitive components. IO-Link has by now been implemented in all established fieldbus systems on the market (Profibus, Profinet, AS-i, CANopen, CC-Link, DeviceNet, EtherCat, EtherNet/IP, Interbus S, Powerlink, Sercos III). Connection to the PLC via manufacturer-specific backplane buses is also possible. The technology is undergoing consistent further development.
About Weiss Robotics
Weiss Robotics GmbH & Co. KG in Ludwigsburg is an innovative company specializing in the development and manufacture of mechatronic components for demanding handling tasks. The product portfolio includes gripper modules, tactile sensor systems, and process force sensing. Weiss Robotics offers high-quality components "made in Germany" as solutions for demanding automation tasks. These fulfill the much-cited "Industry 4.0" vision already today through their integral mechatronic approach, standard network connectivity, and use of modern software technology. Customer benefits, quality, easy integration, and productivity are always kept in the foreground.