The latest generation of smart sensors for actuators are able to share information with the controller, typically via technologies such as IO-Link. They can also receive commands and parameter information from the controller and thus adapt to new requirements on a continuous basis.
This two-way data flow helps facilitate what can be defined as a true Industry 4.0 environment. The upshot for manufacturers is considerable gains in efficiency, alongside greater flexibility and better planning with regard to maintenance.
However, to maximise the gains, engineers need to consider several factors:
1. Rugged design is a requirement
A smart sensor
that will likely spend its working life in an environment that may see wide variations in temperature, vibration, and even exposure to aggressive fluids or chemicals, needs to be able to keep operating reliably.
Smart sensors may be offered with specific IP ratings to denote suitability for use where different degrees of exposure to moisture are an issue. In addition, automated applications in which the smart sensor might be used may be operating 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
As well as making operation more demanding, this also means that sensor failure leading directly to downtime, can be extremely costly in terms of lost production. So, as well as having a long service life in the toughest use scenarios, smart sensors must be quick to change or swap-out in order to keep any downtime – scheduled or unscheduled – to an absolute minimum. This type of operation must be able to be completed without the requirement to the remove cylinder end caps or any other ‘strip down’ of the assembly.
2. The sensor needs to be able to fit securely on the cylinder body
External profiles may include linear slides, T-slots and dovetails. The sensor body of course needs to correspond to the profile, and the use of adaptors or some form of gripper may be needed to secure the sensor in place.
Alternatively, a combination screw combining an Allen key head and slotted screw can provide a convenient, simple, and fast method of locating and securing the sensor. Instead, retaining ribs on the side of the sensor are a feature that can hold the device in the desired position even before the screw is tightened. By using this approach, sensors can be quickly and accurately secured in the cylinder slot with just a single quarter turn of the fixing screw.
3. Adjustment and configuration of operating parameters is essential
During installation and at points in the sensor’s operating life, adjustment and configuration of operating parameters will be necessary. For systems designers, how they wish to do this is an important consideration. Typical approaches are either via the IO-Link
, or some kind of portable ‘teach pad.’
From an electrical standpoint, the ready availability of a supply voltage for the sensor is an absolute requirement. And finally, knowing that the sensor is working is of course important, and therefore a visual cue of an active state or output in the form of an LED can be of value to operators.
Smart sensors, such as Parker’s P8S CPS series
, are increasingly important and relevant as Industry 4.0 and the Industrial Internet of Things begins to gain real momentum. Where there is emphasis on process and quality control and where maximising uptime is important, smart sensors can provide the information required to monitor and control processes. The selection and implementation of smart sensors is important to get right if the benefits to be enjoyed are to be optimised.
Continuous position sensing devices can make a significant contribution to creating a smarter, more efficient factory environment. To find out more, download our CPS Smart Sensing Brochure
that covers continuous position sensing using analogue signal or IO-Link communication for linear actuators, and discover how you can better schedule corrective maintenance and reduce your downtime.
Article contributed by Franck Roussillon, product manager, actuators, Pneumatic Division Europe, Parker Hannifin Corporation.