Launch of the first IO Link products
PI (PROFIBUS & PROFINET International) has now published the physical layer and protocol specification: thus IO Link as an open, fieldbus-independent communication interface for sensors and actuators which is suitable for use in a factory automation is available. This technology makes it possible to integrate sensors and actuators into an automation system easily and in an innovative way. All the major sensor manufacturers have picked up on this fact and have already started work on numerous product implementations or set the wheels of the necessary decision-making processes in motion so that new products can be developed. The first products which are ready to go into series production were presented at the Hanover Fair, April 2007, Germany. The product spectrum that was presented ranges from a simple sensor providing mainly binary information and a measuring transducer, to multifunctional devices capable of indicating various associated process values or so called function islands, which can show the actuators and their associated check-back signals as a unit.
Besides specifying the physical layer itself, work is now increasingly concerned with the issues of open system integration and the creation of IO Link profiles. By defining IO Link profiles, the sensors/actuators in an automation system can be replaced with others of the same type, while at the same time allowing scope for manufacturer-specific functionality.
IO Link can already be integrated into PROFIBUS and PROFINET to enable convenient configuration and commissioning at all levels of manufacturer-specific functions. Calibration is supported in the same way as detailed diagnostics. At its stand at the Hanover Fair, PI gave an impressive demonstration of how devices from different manufacturers are able to interact. The integration definitions that are currently being specified are intended to allow the integration into a configuration system of a control system by means of a simple device description for sensors and actuators. The integration specification is the key to ensuring standardized mapping to the higher-level communication systems (fieldbuses or Ethernet-based systems).
Within PI, 26 members are now working on IO Link. In addition to all the major sensor manufacturers, this also includes relevant manufacturers of I/O modules and automation systems. The first semiconductor manufacturers recently joined the team in order to contribute to specifying integrated interfaces. This creates the necessary conditions for implementing IO Link into products in a cost-effective manner.