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Industrial Grade Mission-Critical Wireless Solutions for Factory Automation

Technology Overview

Factories require flexible and adaptable machines, mobile equipment and intelligent devices requiring industrial-grade, robust, fast, secure and scalable wireless communication. Our technology presents reliability that is literally a million times better than any other wireless protocol, 100 times faster, deterministic and capable of supporting 100's of devices on a single machine. Such Mission Critical wireless applications cannot be using standard wireless technologies. IO-Link Wireless is a global mission critical wireless communication standard designed for factory automation based on the IO-Link IEC 61131-9 standard and defined as a system extension to the already established base technology of IO-Link. There is a clear product market fit within those areas:

  • Control and Monitor of rotating equipment: Cabling limits the motion and flexibility of rotating and dynamic components. Wirelessly connected end of arm or rotating sensors and actuators reduce complexity and increase flexibility
  • Smart Independent Carriers:  A wireless solution enables shuttles on transport track systems to communicate for control and monitoring independently. Current solutions can only distribute power to the shuttles in motion.
  • Manufacturing Plants Retrofit: Wireless connectivity enables simple and cost-effective retrofit of devices on existing machines, simplifies relocation and upgrades, and new machine deployments.

We are developing end-to-end solutions fit for each category that is based on actual leading customer engagements.

Technology Features & Specifications

IO-Link Wireless defines wireless network communication between sensors/actuators/hubs and IT (On-Premise & Cloud) and OT (PLC using Industrial Ethernet and Fieldbus) in the factory automation environment. It was designed to provide a similar level of performance and backward compatible interface as with cables, so the migration from wired to wireless systems is made easy.

Our IO-Link Wireless technology is millions of time more reliable than any other wireless solution. It provides deterministic latency of up to 5msec communication with 40 nodes per Master (sensors or actuators). Furthermore, it presents reliability that is better than 10-9 Packet Error Rate (System PER, Cycle PER and Protocol PER).

In our IO-Link Wireless technology, up to 40 IO-Link Wireless Devices can be supported by a single IO-Link Wireless Master. The IO-Link Wireless Master is divided into 5 tracks. Each track in a Wireless Master can support up to 8 IO-Link Wireless Devices. All tracks of a Wireless Master communicate at the same time on different frequencies, providing an optimal medium utilization (5MHz bandwidth divided into 5 different channels of 1MHz each). The transmission power is limited to ≤10dBm (10mW) EIRP, which is still capable of yielding a range of up to 20m.

An IO-Link Wireless cycle of 5msec is comprised of 3 sub-cycles each with a duration of 1.6msec. Each sub-cycle is communicated on a different frequency. The sub-cycle includes a downlink portion which is broadcasted by the Wireless Master to all the Wireless Devices on the track. The uplink portion is a single-cast time-multiplexing message sent from the Wireless Devices subsequently according to a defined timeslot.

Potential Applications

Robot End Effectors - Cabling limits the motion and flexibility of end effectors (e.g. grippers, vacuum pumps) attached to robots/cobots and is cumbersome to deploy. A wireless solution embedded inside the sensor/actuator eliminates the cables and accessories required to run all along the robotic arm. Such a solution increases flexibility and reduces overall complexity and cost.

Transport Track Systems - In order to simplify customization/setup of workpieces in a flexible and agile manner, the moving shuttles on transport track systems need to be smarter. It is required to have low latency and reliable wireless data communication for the sensors and actuators on the shuttles. Current tracks only enable power distribution to the shuttles.

Machine Retrofit & Deployment - Wireless connectivity enables simple and cost-effective retrofit and revamp of numerous devices on existing machines, simplifies relocation and upgrades, and new machine deployment

Rotating Components - Cabling limits the motion and flexibility of rotating and dynamic components. Rotating devices with sensors and actuators can now be wirelessly connected to reduce complexity, increase flexibility, and add intelligence.

Linear Robots - Linear robots require complex cable layouts to support the rapid dynamic motion and flexibility while moving workpieces across a machine’s area and in between production stages. Such cables tend to tear and lead to downtime and maintenance costs (e.g. press shop). Providing wireless data communication to the sensors and actuators connected to the linear robots reduces unplanned downtime, maintenance costs and complexity.

Market Trends and Opportunities

Providing both hardware, firmware and software products make up the core wireless technology that fuels IO-Link Wireless. We have teamed up with prominent industrial partners to launch a series of communication products compliant with the IO-Link Wireless standard. Our current partners and customers are diverse and range from sensor and actuator vendors to manufacturers of robots, grippers and handlers, industrial network component manufacturers, machine builders and manufacturing plants. Providing End to End solution helps our partners predictive maintenance, improve safety, increase operational excellence, add flexibility, modularity and agility to their manufacturing plants while reducing the mean time between failures (MTBF), deployment & maintenance costs.

Customer Benefits

IO-Link Market-

The IO-Link protocol was established by the Profibus User Organization (PNO) to address the factory automation need for a smart, simple and low-cost communication protocol from the device level (sensor, actuator) to the field bus (PLC, industrial PC) and up to the cloud. According to MarketsandMarkets, the IO-Link market is expected to reach USD 12.20 billion by 2023 from USD 2.87 billion in 2018, at a CAGR of 33.56%. There are approximately 350 million new devices shipped during 2018 to address the factory automation and logistic markets need (Semicast Report Industrial IoT 2016):

  • 30 million of these are for control and computing, e.g. PLC, industrial PC and gateways
  • 150 million for switches turning on/off industrial equipment
  • 80 million for sensors mostly monitoring temperature, pressure, flow and level
  • 20 million for pumps and valves
  • The remainder of these devices are for Human Machine Interface (HMI), robotics, test equipment and others

IO-Link addresses the market need for 70% of this new device market, whereas the remaining 30% include motion devices (requiring response times lower than 1msec), high data-rate devices like cameras, Lidar and other high-end devices that mostly use TCP/IP protocols.

The IO-Link install base is growing rapidly by more than 50% year over year. Accordingly, its support by industry players is growing rapidly - in June 2016, there were 100 companies in the IO-Link consortium and more than 205 companies by the end of 2018.

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