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Effective Communication Between Devices in Factories Is Not A Myth

Ever since the Greeks, we have been looking for ways to automate repetitive or dangerous tasks. We had to wait until the 20th Century for the first robots to be invented and for control theory development to lead to major technological advancements. Fast forward around 100 years and many manufacturers are still struggling to automate their facilities effectively. Why? There is a lack of technical knowledge to bridge the software-hardware gap, communication protocols incompatibility, and high capital expenses related to integrations or retrofits which increase total cost of ownership.

In this article, we will focus on how to overcome communication incompatibilities to increase uptime and productivity, simplify set-up and maintenance, reduce costs, and enhance flexibility and scalability.

If your factory has been built from the ground up recently, you probably do not need to continue reading. But if you have legacy equipment, this article will help you to stop the communication protocol nightmare.

When you retrofit legacy industrial equipment, like CNC’s, to connect to a centralized monitoring system, sometimes the machine, the low-level sensors, and the higher-level controllers do not communicate with the same protocol. Therefore, you require labor to manually program or set up each sensor and the controllers. This is particularly costly and painful if the devices come from different manufacturers. This is a real-life example of the Babel Tower Myth in which each device communicates using a different network.

At this point, you are asking yourself if there is a viable solution.

First, the Industry has your back. IEC 61131-9 is the international standard to enable the development and use of industrial communications networking with sensors and actuators. The standard is also known as IO-Link and it was created to enable communication with devices regardless of the manufacturer or fieldbus.

As a result, hardware OEM’s developed master modules to leverage IO-Link for short distance, bi-directional, digital, point-to-point, wired (or wireless), industrial communications. However, many master modules on the market offer limited support to different networks.

Second, we designed an IO-Link solution that truly bridges communication.

Contec’s IO-Link Master is unique. It supports the widest possible range of field networks including EtherNet/IP, PROFINET, Modbus TCP, EtherCAT, and CC-Link IE Field Basic. Our Master module allows you to have one power supply for several modules as they can be daisy chain together. In addition, our solution can be configured using any web browser.

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Finally, factories operate with harsh environments involving dust, water, 24/7 operation, and stringent security standards. In general, our industrial equipment is designed and manufactured to meet those requirements. In particular, our IO-Link Master is designed with IP67 certification to protect it from water, dirt, dust and can withstand a wide temperature range from −20°C - 60°C. making it safe to mount outside of an electrical panel.

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Want to learn more about how we can help you? Review a summary of our solutions.

As you can see, between our product offering and our deep understanding of the industry, we can help you eliminate the communication hassle that many times hinders the path towards factory automation and monitoring.

If you want to learn more about our products for Industry 4.0 and Internet of Things, visit www.contec.com.