The industrial space is bound by cables. There is a true need for wireless communication of sensors, actuators and devices at the machine level in factories, something that cannot be addressed today by existing wireless networks. European industry is expected to receive huge benefits from the ongoing technological revolution. Mobile robots, connected machinery and the harvesting and application of big data all add to a completely flexible and adaptable production line fit for the 21st century. But first, factories must be freed from cables. With support from the EU, the Wi-MCA project, led by the Israeli start-up CoreTigo, is developing a new system to facilitate this transition. Wi-MCA – Wireless for Mission-Critical Applications – is creating a new communications protocol known as the IO-Link Wireless standard (IEC 61131-9). This highly reliable, fast, scalable and deterministic wireless communications method, specifically designed for factory automation, meets the demands of the next-generation factory. “Substitution of these cables requires a wireless system capable of providing real-time control, low latency with cable-grade reliability, and the ability to scale to hundreds of devices wirelessly per work-cell,” says Gabi Daniely, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer at CoreTigo. The main aim of the Wi-MCA project was to conduct market research on the new system with leading voices in the European industry market. The feedback will ensure the project moves forward in the most efficient way and help with developing a business plan to bring the new technology to market within the next 2.5 years.
A world of potential
The technology has several potential impacts, beyond just the need to reduce cabling in the industrial space. “It is about creating a paradigm shift that enables new applications and smart factory solutions that were not feasible before, due to the constraints and limitations that wired communication dictates,” says Daniely. Industry-specific applications using wireless communications can drive operational efficiency and production optimisation, and provide greater intelligence to manage the business. Rotating and dynamic components can gain increased flexibility and mobility. IO-Link Wireless enables simple and cost-effective retrofitting of devices on existing machines, and simplifies relocation and upgrades, and new machine deployment. A wireless solution enables shuttles on transport track systems to communicate for control and monitoring independently, increasing flexibility and machine capacity, and reducing footprint. In hazardous and hygienic industrial environments, such as the food and beverage industry, IO-Link Wireless solutions reduce costs associated with cabling deployments, maintenance, along with contamination concerns and safety. On top of this, data collection will be greatly enhanced by the IO-Link Wireless system, as all information from connected sensors and robotics will be sent directly to the cloud.
Building the future
CoreTigo is pioneering the IO-Link Wireless communication standard and addressing the manufacturing need for interoperable wireless communication between sensors, actuators and controllers. CoreTigo is providing hardware and software products which make up the core wireless technology that fuels IO-Link Wireless. “Connectivity and IOT platforms are a foundational element of Industry 4.0 and they are at the heart of the industrial digital transformation. The evolution now to IO-Link Wireless is inevitable, as it promises to further lower deployment and cabling costs. “This allows for unlimited flexibility and mobility, reaching more applications and systems, more legacy machines to be monitored, and simpler connectivity to the cloud,” says Daniely.
Wi-MCA, wireless, robotics, factory, production, evolution, cables, communication