Smart tasks and diagnostic function make IO-Link encoders more intelligent

Jan 26, 2022

GO BEYOND. Discovery #18 

Decentralized decision-making, autonomous execution: IO-Link opens up the possibility for utilizing the functionality of intelligent sensors for automation in an easy and cost-effective manner. With this in mind, the new AHS/AHM36 series absolute encoders now come with an IO-Link interface. This provides several additional functions, for example diagnostic data such as temperature and operating time, as well as a configurable input and output pin. So-called Smart Tasks allow data to be processed directly within the sensor, and open up new application possibilities for this functionally enhanced sensor series from SICK. 


Smart Tasks optimize production processes

In sawing processes in the timber processing industry, Smart Tasks can initiate a “Trigger after a defined length” response when the IO-Link encoder in conjunction with a photoelectric sensor detect that a pre-configured length value has been reached. When this event occurs, an action can be triggered by simple means via a switching signal - for example for a saw to make a cut.

The “Length measurement and monitoring” Smart Task gives these SICK sensors with IO-Link communication the ability to determine length information and to be employed specifically for smart automation at the encoder level. This length information can, for example, be used in a lumber mill to allocate tree trunks to a specific delivery order early on, to process them in a resource-saving manner, and also to optimize the use of offcuts. The length data provided by the sensors also make it easier to sort trunks or already processed timber. This function is very useful not only for separation monitoring in the material flow of lumber mills, but also in parcel sorting centers. Furthermore, using these sensors in conjunction with a photoelectric sensor provides valuable data for optimizing intralogistic processes. Parcel length data, for example, can be directly used to optimize the loading of transport vehicles.

Absolute encoder for every application

These encoders, which measure only 36 mm in diameter, are available with five different shaft diameters between six millimeters and a quarter inch and with three different mounting options: face mount and servo flange, as well as blind hollow shaft. Rotatable male connector and cable outlets provide flexibility when connecting the encoders and make them easier to integrate into a machine design. SICK offers three different functional types. The base variant with an enclosure rating of IP65 covers a operating temperature range from –20 bis +70 degrees Celsius. The Advanced absolute encoder with a higher enclosure rating of IP66/67 is designed for a temperature range between –40 and +85 degrees Celsius. The stainless steel INOX version achieves an IP69K enclosure rating and is therefore ideal for use in demanding industrial environments or applications in the food industry with stringent hygiene requirements.


Absolute encoder: Length measurement of packaging film

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Monitoring or conveyed tree trunks

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Measurement of object lengths and gaps between objects

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New applications, incredible potential

Traditional encoder systems also have many applications in the beverage industry, and can therefore take on new automation tasks. To date, the AHM36 IO-Link absolute encoder from SICK has been used to determine conveyor positions and speeds. IO-Link now opens up the possibility of easily combining the encoder with a simple photoelectric sensor, for example to also count the bottles in the passing flow of product. A limit value – like a certain number of bottles – can be set, which when reached initiates an action. This might involve, for example, actuating a conveyor switch. The triggering of a response or setting of a trigger signal occurs directly within the encoder, that is, not indirectly via a controller.

Since the signal generated by the Smart Task comes directly from the encoder, no additional control unit is required in this case either. The ability to count bottles does not depend on the production speed. The combination of devices linked via IO-Link is configured using the SICK Engineering Tool SOPAS. This intuitive-to-use software can be used to parameterize, configure and diagnose almost all sensors and systems from SICK. SOPAS makes life easy for the user by automatically detecting and linking the sensors connected to the system.

In conclusion, the example applications presented here illustrate how intelligent sensors communicating via IO-Link offer a simple means of exploiting potential efficiency gains and simplifying the overall automation process.

Further possibilities using Smart Tasks

IO-Link mode enables length measurements of, for example, boxes or parcels to be started and ended using a trigger signal from a photoelectric sensor. The length value is then transmitted with the process data via IO-Link. It is also possible to monitor lengths. In this case it is sufficient to define upper and lower limit values. If any deviations occur, an additional bit is set in the process data transmitted via IO-Link. In Switching mode, on the other hand, the length monitoring occurs via the switching output of the encoder if the measured value is above or below the limit value. When Trigger after defined length is used, the encoder is also operated in switching mode. When, for example, a photoelectric sensor outputs a trigger signal, the encoder measures a configured “Length value for trigger” and switches an output when that value is reached.