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Industry 4.0 bringing factories closer to customers

Steve Rogerson
September 28, 2016
Industry 4.0 is leading to a shift in where manufacturers locate their factories as the increased automation means they no longer need to chase the cheap labour found in the Far East and Eastern Europe. The result, said Sui Shieh, vice president for industrial and healthcare at California-based analogue chip company Maxim Integrated, was an increase in manufacturing in North America and Western Europe.

“Companies want their factories closer to the end customers,” said Shieh (pictured). “They want to shorten the supply chain. More and more are moving back from China to North America and Europe. Industry 4.0 makes this economically viable.”
Re-shoring, he said, was really happening today and was being enabled by Industry 4.0.
He was speaking at the launch of the company’s Pocket IO programmable logic controller (PLC) development platform.
“This is not a product for sale,” said Shieh, “but something that helps customers see what their end product would look like. It is a proof of concept.”
Lost productivity is a common concern for Industry 4.0 designers challenged with keeping a manufacturing line running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Without intelligent data available at their fingertips, factory operators do not have the insight to make informed, real-time decisions that can significantly improve uptime, revenue and gross margins. In addition to capturing real-time data, PLCs require fan-less operation due to harsh industrial environments. As a result, highly efficient power products are required to reduce heat dissipation.
The Pocket IO platform is said to redefine how factories operate and enables Industry 4.0 applications. To increase productivity, it provides real-time intelligence to make decisions quickly and effectively, adaptive manufacturing to avoid potential downtime, and distributed control to provide redundancy.
When compared with the company’s Micro PLC platform launched in 2014, the Pocket IO decreases form factor by an additional 2.5 times and reduces power consumption by another 30 per cent.
“We know our customers want even lower power, smaller size and higher performance to increase productivity,” said Shieh. “This trend is accelerating. That is why we designed the next-generation reference design. It fits in your pocket.”
Using patent-pending, fast and safe demagnetisation clamps integrated within the company’s Max14913 octal high-side switch and driver, it achieves 15x space savings by eliminating 16 diodes from the previous product. In addition, the Max17681 iso-buck DC-DC converter provides more than 90 per cent power efficiency when compared with its predecessor – a reduction of power dissipation of over 30 per cent.
The Max31913 octal, digital input translator and serialiser can be powered off of any available 5V supply while still accepting input signals up to 36V, eliminating all protection components needed on the 24V supply pin and thus reducing total footprint by a half.
“We leveraged Maxim’s strong IP portfolio and long history specialising in analogue integration to create this new pathway to Industry 4.0,” said Jeff DeAngelis, managing director of business management at Maxim Integrated. “The Pocket IO is a development platform for designers and it demonstrates our complete industrial communications and power capabilities, including our robust IO-Link smart sensor technology.”
Maxim will be showing the product at Electronica in Munich in November where the stand will contain part of a factory floor using smart sensors to check quality in professional footballs.