I/O innovations ─ drive machine control with input and output

Flexibility and modularity move I/O into new territory.

By Control Design editors

Input/output (I/O) devices are the linchpins of a machine’s automation system. The input could be inbound sensor data, and the output might be outbound actuator commands, but the automation scheme is dependent on the I/O, be it digital or analog, to gather and send signals to and from the controller.

Despite its long-standing use, I/O innovations have made the devices faster, smaller and more intelligent. Traditionally, I/O systems were centralized and mounted on a DIN rail in an enclosure. But enclosureless I/O systems have been available for quite a few years now, and certain applications can benefit from that type of flexibility.

For enclosed I/O modules, machine builders can terminate wires with spring clamps, cage clamps, screw clamps or connectors. Wireless I/O can be broadcast over a network to an access point and then to the controller.

The number of I/O options continues to increase, and the decision-making process becomes more precise and complex. Counting I/O points is just the beginning.

The trend toward machines that are more modular and adaptable to accommodate and produce different product lines quickly has expanded the need for more distributed I/O. Machine modularity has taken distributed I/O into expansive frontiers, where network connections and power sources are all that are needed to empower a functional system. This makes the I/O more flexible and much easier to install and commission, as well.

Our State of Technology Report looks in greater detail at these trends and other technology trends in the arena of I/O. Drawn from the most recent articles published in the pages of Control Design, this special report includes articles on emerging trends, basic primers and case histories illustrating the latest technology in action. 

Download our State of Technology ebook on the latest I/O innovations here.