PLC Design Board Aims at Industry 4.0 Applications

November 09, 2016 by Majeed Ahmad

Industry 4.0 is here now, and Maxim's Pocket IO PLC development platform shows how it can reinvigorate manufacturing operations with tiny sensors and distributed control units.

Industry 4.0 is here now, and Maxim's Pocket IO PLC development platform shows how it can reinvigorate manufacturing operations with tiny sensors and distributed control units.

The Industry 4.0 movement is at an inflection point with connected sensors meeting the assembly line to facilitate adaptive manufacturing, distributed control, and real-time decision-making in harsh factory environments.

Maxim Integrated is pushing the Industry 4.0 envelope with its Pocket IO PLC development platform that encompasses industrial power, digital isolation, digital input and output, I/O link, and encoders and motor drivers.

The reference design—which includes the attach board, IO-link protocol stack, cables, and power supply—is smaller than its predecessor Micro PLC platform and dissipates far less heat.


Pocket IO PLC board shrinks the size of digital output modules by eliminating 16 diodes. Image courtesy of Maxim Integrated.

Jeff DeAngelis, Managing Director of Business Management at Maxim Integrated, says that manufacturers are already seeing the benefits of products centered around Industry 4.0, especially in the countries that are re-engaging in the manufacturing business, saying "The Pocket IO PLC design platform creates a pathway to Industry 4.0 by bringing compact PLCs to manufacturing line."

According to a recent report from Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), Industry 4.0 is no longer a future trend. The report says that 35% of companies adopting Industry 4.0 expect revenue gains over 20% over the next five years.


The MAXREFDES150# Pocket IO System. Image courtesy of Maxim Integrated.


Evolution of Industrial PLCs

The programmable logic controller or PLC—which could only fit in a large room during the 1970s and was of closet size during the 1980s—has become smaller and more compact over the years while reducing the amount of heat it generates. Now, Maxim has put the 9.8 cubic-inch Pocket IO PLC reference board in developer's pocket.

In 2014, Maxim launched the Micro PLC platform that used more than 50 ICs, encompassing analog and digital I/Os, communication channels, and industrial-grade power devices. Maxim claims that the Pocket IO PLC has decreased form factor by 2.5x and has reduced power consumption by 30%.

For a start, Maxim has shrunk the size of digital output modules with the availability of a faster octal high-side switch and driver, AX14913. It facilitates 15x space savings by eliminating 16 diodes from its previous solution: MAX14900E in the Micro PLC platform. Next, for I/O link sensor, Maxim is replacing the 4mm 2 MAX14826 chip, which dissipates 400mW, with 2.5mm 2 MAX14827 chip that generates merely 180mW.


The block diagram of MAX14913 octal high-side switch and driver which is targeted at Industry 4.0 applications. Image courtesy of Maxim Integrated.

The MAX14913 octal high-side switch and driver provides ultra-high speed switching and safe demagnetizing clamps, and can reliably interface low-voltage digital signals to 24V output-control lines. Maxim claims it's the industry’s smallest octal high-side driver that enables compact, high-density I/O modules while reducing board space by 40% compared to other solutions on the market.

The engineers developing PLCs, motion control units, drives, and other industrial and process automation applications need a high-side switch to control inductive loads. The MAX14913 chip can discharge and demagnetize any inductive load safely using integrated clamps. Moreover, it provides diagnostics on open- and short-circuit load lines, the most common external failure mode.

Maxim is showcasing the MAX14913 chip, the Pocket IO PLC development platform, and other Industry 4.0 solutions at the electronica 2016 show being held in Munich, Germany on November 8–11, 2016.

  • D Fitchett Jr November 29, 2016

    Someone may be able to help me out with this article. It seem to stretch reality as it is based on my past experiences. First was reference to size of current and past PLCs. The old Modicon or PLC 2 where only ~1’ X ~1’ X ~3’, then PLC vendors quickly came out with their Micro-PLCs like AB’s Micrologix which is ~.25’ X ~.25’ X ~.5’. (not closet and cabinet size. Unless you look in dev stage before mass produced and distributed.) Then heat generation is mentioned a lot, but i do not remember heat being produced by PLC ever being a problem, it was heat produced by the environment. Then the biggest mystery I have with this article, the I/O. Of course if the industrial environment was all low voltage digital I/O things could get even smaller, but my experience has been it is even rare to find PLC utilizing digital I/O modules. Most are analog and discrete driving solenoids, motor starters. Even with current PLCs, if you strip away the I/O modules, the communication interface ports, etc. the processor module in and outputting to little 5v digital signals, will be the size of sandwich. But in the real world, the PLC promoted in this article would need relays and other current/voltage step up devices to interface with the current tens of thousands of sensors, solenoids, motor starters and such, so the cabinet foot print would grow many times the size of the little processor shown that only has to support digital circuits. This article got me questioning the industrial world around me, so i went to their company website to look for pictures of it actually being used in an industrial environment, in an actual control panel driving motor starters and such, but there where none. Anyone have a picture of full system using this mini-microprocessor? A side by side picture of two panels, one with PLC driving control, and another panel with Pocket I/O driving same system would be perfect to prove your point. Especially since heat generation is not an issue, and size is main selling point. Thanks in advance for anyone who responds to paint the real picture for me.

    Like. Reply
    • Majeed Ahmad November 30, 2016
      Hello D Fitchett Jr, thanks for your detailed comment. I will try to answer it point by point and I hope to be able to satisfy you regarding the issue you raised. 1) You are right heat wasn't much of an issue in large PLCs. But as they got miniaturized while doing more with less, heat became an issue. Especially in battery operated fanless designs. 2) Digital I/O is part of solution given digital outputs from sensors and switches. Industrial environments increasingly use digital interfaces like SPI, which inevitably brings in digital I/O and ICs like digital input serializers. 3) Regarding the use cases for this product, the company mentioned high-speed railway system in Japan, customizable chocolate bar in Pennsylvania, and wind turbines in UK.
      Like. Reply