In typical sensors all you get is ON or OFF… we just hope and assume that the prox is working, until something doesn’t work properly. The part is seated but the sensor doesn’t fire or the operator can’t get their machine to cycle. This can sometimes be tricky to troubleshoot and usually causes unplanned interruptions in production while the maintenance teams attempt to replace the sensor. On some recent customer visits on the east coast, I have had a number of interesting conversations about the customer’s need to collect more information from their sensors; specifically questions like:
- How do I know the sensor is working?
- How do I predict sensor failure?
- How do I know something has changed in the sensor application?
- How do I get my sensor to provide adaptive feedback?
- How do I plan preventative maintenance?
- How can I increase the overall equipment throughput?
- How can I increase my process reliability?
Problem #1 – Hard to Get to Sensor Installations
Many times a set of sensors installed on a machine can be extremely labor intensive to troubleshoot or diagnose. Maybe a number of pieces of tooling must be removed or a technician has to wear special gear, or maybe the space is very compact making it difficult to work in. Knowing the health of the sensor from the HMI or PLC would be much easier than trying to diagnose in person in a difficult to troubleshoot installation. This way maintenance could be preventative versus reactionary and dramatically reduce downtime.
Problem #2 – Tooling Doesn’t Get Used All the Time
As we add flexibility to a production line there are packages and models that have larger and smaller volumes. Maybe a section of tooling or an operation gets used only 5% of the time for a particular model. Knowing that the sensors are all functioning properly on startup of that equipment could save time in troubleshooting and shorten the time for model changeover considerably.
Problem #3 – Unplanned Downtime Costs Big Money
If the production line is running at or above capacity or the manufacturing process is severely wounded when halted unexpectantly, this can cost companies big money in unplanned downtime. Being able to provide feedback on changes to the sensors’ environment or being able to know that everything is working in top order can be vital to the success of a production line.
The Solution – Intelligent Sensors Using IO-Link!
The vendor neutral and open standard IO-Link was specifically designed with Intelligent sensors in mind. Intelligent Sensors have the ability to provide multiple types of feedback:
- The “I’m Here!” Signal (Constant Condition Monitoring)
- The “Something Changed!” Signal (Preventative Diagnostics)
- The “Tell Me What to Do!” Communication (Automatic Configuration)
- ON/OFF indication (it wouldn’t be a prox!)
- Measurement Values (like analog, but already in bits)