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Interview with Stephan Langer, Product Manager Networking at Balluff

The benefits of IO modules with display in practice

Balluff has presented its innovation, IO modules with integrated display, in the Quest Trend Magazin in April 2012. Now Stephan Langer, Product Manager Networking and IO-Link, reports the feedback from the users regarding this innovation.

Mr. Langer, what feedback has got the I/O modules with integrated display after their presentation at the Hannover Fair in April 2012?

October 2nd, 2012 - There has been taking place a very fast switch to the modules with display with our customers. Interestingly enough that is happening internationally; modules with display are being demanded in the USA as well as in Asia. That is why we now offer the I/O modules only with display.

Foto: Stephan Langer, Balluff
Stephan Langer

What about the response from individual sectors?

From the automobile industry comes the positive feedback that one can finally fully utilize the address range with field buses. As well-known with rotary switches you can only set up addresses up to 99, Profibus, however, provides addresses up to station 126. So with the new IO modules addressing capacity does not get lost any more.


The car makers have discovered a further benefit: Now the addresses can be structured more clearly e.g. in packages of 10, 20, and 30 etc. and that in turn leads to a clearer structure of the PLC program.

What about the feedback from the machinery industry?

In the machinery industry the modules with display are being implemented cross-sectorally. In the sector assembly automation machine-builders tell us that now the screw driver for the rotary switches has become obsolete during the start-up.


Machine-builders are told by their end-users that now those service assignments are omitted without replacement that had previously been necessary due to inadvertent false adjustments by the rotary selectors. That does not happen any more since a further inadvertent entry is blocked after the adjustment via the display.

That means fewer service assignments with the end-user, an advantage that the machine-builder will gladly pass on to its customer…

…Still one more point regarding the service we perform at Balluff. If a customer calls us due to a problem, we ask for type, number of version, status of the last update in order to get an idea about the situation at the customer. Such questions the customer could answer often not very fast. Now the response consists of a few clicks on the push-button at the display and the required information is provided. That makes a good impression.


In the future we will integrate still more functionalities via the display.

IO module with display for CC-Link
IO module with display for CC-Link

For which Ethernet protocols or field buses are the IO modules available now?

Since this summer the modules with display can be used for all Ethernet and non-Ethernet field buses supported by Balluff, i.e. Ethernet IP, Profibus, ProfiNet and CC Link for Asia.

Under which environment conditions are the new I/O modules applicable?

All these modules have the type of protection IP 67, i.e. splash-proof, and have a zinc die-casting case as all modules from Balluff for the use outside of the control cabinets. So Balluff may be called the IP 67 Company.

Is there a system size, starting from which the benefits of the new I/O modules will fully affect?

The main question is rather, is there a distributed field bus system or not. If distributed field bus modules are used, the functions, offered by the new modules with display, are important for all applications. The display provides two LEDs, a green one and a red one. These LEDs can be triggered independently of the signal statuses at the I/Os. That enables additional diagnostic possibilities.


With widely spread plants like e.g. in the automobile industry, the maintenance wants to become active at certain components. By now the maintenance people had to determine locally and quite time-consumingly the related components with the system plan at hand. It succeeds much faster and safer with the new Search&Rescue function. The modules of the components concerned are set up to “green” at the control of the plant or via laptop or operating panel. Now the maintenance people detect much faster and safer, that is the module I have to deal with.


Or with packaging machines the LED at the module may light up red, if packing material threatens to run dry. That saves additional signal cables.

The user of the I/O modules is certainly interested in how the probably higher purchase price will prove its worth.

Yes, of course. The I/O modules with integrated display are around 6% to 8% above those without display. The range is based on the different field buses. A calculation for redemption I cannot offer now to you, because conditions are different with the customers and end-users.


But the benefits such as making full use of addresses, easier start-up, reduced numbers of service assignments, simpler maintenance, extended diagnostic possibilities, shorten the times for the man power and lower possible downtimes. So such a price adjustment will pay for itself very rapidly and reliably.

Mr. Langer, thank you for the interview.


Stephan Langer was interviewed by Thomas Quest.

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