Smart IO-Link Sensors For Factory Automation


Accelerate the development of IO-Link sensors with these IO-Link reference designs

Today’s smart factories rely greatly on automating every section of its innumerable processes. Thus, there is a growing need for more and smarter sensors that are capable of acquiring and transmitting increasingly complex information regarding the production process. While traditional industrial sensors simply communicate an analog voltage/current, or a digital on/off signal, modern sensors have to detect and transmit more information to handle the increased automation of complex production systems.

As sensors measure even more information and have to communicate this with the controller/PLC, this is where the new low-cost, robust and open communication protocol such as IO-Link for communication with sensors and actuators comes in. The key point here is that IO-link is an open standard and allows interoperability of industrial equipment from all over the world. It is based on the legacy 3-wire sensor connector that is a tried-and-tested technology for communication with sensors and actuators.


Here we discuss the reference designs of some smart sensor solutions powered by IO-Link that will help designers to optimize the automation systems:-

Tiny IO-Link Proximity Sensor:

Proximity sensors are one of the important sensor types that are used to sense the presence of an object when an object is a specific distance away. Transmitting a simple digital signal (ON/OFF) signifies proximity. However, modern sensors may be required to detect and transmit more information such as the color detected or the distance from a certain object. This is where we have to use a communication protocol such as IO-Link.

Maxim has developed an ultra-small IO-link proximity sensor reference design MAXREFDES27# that is versatile and powerful enough to be integrated within an actual assembly line. The design consists of an IO-Link proximity sensor with an IR receiver, matching IR LED driver, IO-Link transceiver, and energy-efficient step-down converter all on a small 8.2mm x 31.5mm printed circuit (PC) board.

Efficient Designs for Power Over Ethernet (PoE) Applications 

Leveraging optical technology, the sensor is extremely versatile helping it to solve a bulk of the industrial proximity sensing needs, including sensing of metallic or non-metallic objects, very small objects, over long distances, and with fast response times.

Other benefits include an ultra-low power consumption of 150mW and its low-cost ideal for IIoT use cases. It is O-Link version 1.1 and 1.0 compliant and has inbuilt transient voltage suppression, reverse polarity and short-circuit protections.


Typical applications include packaging, material handling, food processing, roller coasters, assembly lines, conveyor systems, robotics, process control, industrial automation and programmable logic controller (PLC).

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This TI Design offers a rapid prototyping platform for IO-Link sensor transmitter. Thanks to its modular design, different sections can be easily cut away to allow fast and simple interfacing of any analog or digital sensor.

Design Features:

• IO-Link v1.1 and v1.0 Connectivity Out of the Box
(TMG stack, PHY and M12 connector)
• Built-In Analog and Digital Sensors on PCB
• Simple Interfacing of Other Sensors
• Power consumption: 160 mW (in COM3 mode)
• RTD Performance: Maximum Measured Error: 0.17°C (–200°C to 850°C)
• Designed to meet with: IEC 61000-4-2, IEC 61000-4-4, IEC 61000-4-5 and IEC 60255-5


• Factory Automation and Process Control
• Building Automation
• Sensors and Field Transmitters
• Portable Instrumentation
• Field actuators

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Low-cost, Small IO-Link light sensor:

Maxim has developed what it claims as the world’s smallest IO-Link light sensor  The compact design includes ambient light, red, green, blue, infrared, and temperature sensing along with an ultra-low-power microcontroller and full software stack, all on a tiny printed circuit board (PCB) that is 6.5mm x 25mm. The design is IO-Link version 1.1/1.0 compliant.

60GHz mmWave Sensors for Worldwide Industrial Market


Some applications of the design include color sorting, gas and fluid analysis, label presence, lid insertion verification, shrink-wrap presence, tamper-proof seal confirmation, etc.

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