Added Value for Smart Field Devices

Intelligent components can process more than just digital control signals. Smart field devices from Schmalz deliver valuable information to improve processes over the long term. IO-Link has established itself as the standardized interface for communication between the higher-level controller and the sensor and actuator level. Users can now view data from smart field devices from Schmalz as well as data from other component manufacturers at any time with the new Schmalz Connect Suite. The solution enables both comprehensive data analysis and parameterization of individual devices. Dr. Maik Fiedler, Head of the Business Unit Vacuum Automation at J. Schmalz GmbH, explains the advantages of the Schmalz Connect Suite in detail.

Dr. Maik Fiedler, Head of the Business Unit Vacuum Automation at J. Schmalz GmbH
Schmalz Connect Suite connects all components in a single system with an IO-Link interface and manages them on a shared dashboard.
The compact ejectors as well as the SXMPi from Schmalz enable the user to have planned preventative maintenance without downtimes during operation.
Schmalz has been working for a while on the digitalization of its vacuum components. With the Schmalz Connect Suite, the company basically switched the perspective and, instead of generating data, the new software tool allows you to access its intelligent components as well as components of other manufactures. How did that development come about?

Our components can do more than just send and receive digital signals. They analyze and interpret the vacuum curve to produce valuable and usable data. For instance, this allows us to recommend predictive maintenance for vacuum systems and issue warnings in the event of increased leakage or a dirty filter. Errors can thus be quickly identified and eliminated. Various gripping profiles can also be stored and flexibly accessed. In this case, the IO-Link technology functions as an enabler. We can also connect components that do not have space for an Ethernet connection using a standardized interface. In this way, digitalization reaches the sensor and actuator level. In short, with the Schmalz Connect Suite, we offer our customers a tool that provides central access to all intelligent components and thus optimally realizes the potential of the IO-Link interface.

What is the task of the Schmalz Connect Suite?

The Connect Suite software is used to analyze and parameterize our smart field devices across the entire life cycle. Components from other manufactures can also be easily and quickly integrated into our system. Let’s imagine a complex gripping system with different sensors and actuators. The data from the gripping system needs to be combined at a certain point, processed, and then made accessible to the user in the simplest way possible. That is exactly what our software does. The Connect Suite gathers identification, parameter, and status data from the actuator and sensor level and then analyzes and visualizes it. Plus, the data can be conveniently integrated into other systems via a REST API interface. The Schmalz Connect thus builds a bridge between the lowest field level and higher-level applications, such as a control panel or mobile dashboard for machine monitoring. It displays all processes – during gripping, for example – digitally. The components do not need to be read out individually. The added-value for users is a result of the user-friendly installation, easy operation, and energy and process control functions.

Can you explain how users benefit from the Schmalz Connect Suite in more detail?

Users do not need to manipulate the controller, for example, to integrate the software into the existing digital production environment. Integrating the IO-Link components into the Connect Suite does not require manipulation of the PLC and is independent of the industrial Ethernet protocol. This means that the actual communication that is critical for the process is not disrupted. Furthermore, Connect Suite works regardless of the manufacturer. In other words, it can access all IO-Link components on the lower controller level and clearly displays the data in a dashboard. Functions such as condition monitoring and predictive maintenance are easier to use thanks to a better overview of all IO-Link components. One concrete example: The condition monitoring of our SXMPi IO-Link ejectors can significantly reduce downtimes in the press line of an automobile manufacturer and save up to 300,000 euros annually. Plus, Connect Suite is easy to implement and can be scaled as required. Any IO-Link device can be parameterized on the front end.

Why is software needed that can read and process data independently of the manufacturer?

Schmalz is not only a supplier of components, but also develops complex handling systems with their own controls. These systems often include sensors and actuators from third-party suppliers, such as position sensors or servomotors. That’s why we know how important it is that an integrated solution like Connect Suite works regardless of the manufacturer. The fact that all major component manufacturers now have IO-Link products in their product range helps a great deal. Users not only use Schmalz products extremely efficiently with our Connect Suite, but also have an overview of all devices integrated in their production environment.

How can users integrate the Schmalz Connect Suite into their production environments?

The Connect Suite is delivered on a compact Edge PC, which is simply connected to the industrial Ethernet in the system. Users then log on using the browser on their laptop or tablet, which works just like a WLAN router at home. They can also install the software on other Edge platforms or customer servers. Cloud use is also being considered for the future.

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