Recently Hank Hogan published an article in Control Design titled “Sensor, Diagnose Thyself.” (To be honest, I really wanted to steal his title for my blog entry.) I think Hank did a great job dissecting the key benefits of smart sensors and the amazing things you can do with them. Utilizing the technology IO-Link (that we have discussed in many past Blog Entries), sensors can communicate more with the controller and provide more data than ever before.
Some of the key points that I really thought are useful to maintenance and engineers at end-user facilities or machine builders:
- Being able to detect and notify about pending failures; for example a photoeye’s lens is dirty and needs to be cleaned.
- A failed sensor needs to be swapped out quickly; IO-Link allows for the smart sensors settings to be cloned and the swap to be executed super fast.
- Configure a sensor before installation; program with your laptop: sample rate, response time, measurement settings, on/off switch points, anything!
- One platform can be used for many sensor types; this gives familiarity to a single interface while using multiple sensor types and technologies.
- In the future sensors in a wireless cloud would self-heal; this is an amazing concept and if we can figure out the price for radios and batteries to make it cost-effective, I think this could be a game changer someday.
But all that being said, it really comes down to the total cost of ownership doing it the standard sensor way versus the smart sensor way. I think you will pay more upfront in capital but down the line there will be less cost in maintenance and downtime.