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IO-Link 101: 8 Common Questions Answered

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You may be hearing a lot of buzz about IO-Link lately, but do you know what it is or how it works? Below are the answers to common questions about IO-Link technology, what it does, who can benefit from it, and more.

1.   What is IO-Link? IO-Link Comtrol_Group final

IO-Link is a standardized, bi-directional communication protocol supported on sensors or actuators, which are connected through a master. This gives the user/integrator more information about their devices and allows them to have remote access, which fits into the hot topic of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) or Industry 4.0. IO-Link is a complimentary technology to an existing PLC, HMI or other controls architecture.

What IO-Link is Not: IO-Link is not another fieldbus. Rather, it was developed to reduce dependability on fieldbus support by manufacturers and users alike. It is designed to be as simple and universal as possible, requiring only standard M12/M8/M5 cables (no special cabling or connectors). It is also not a proprietary communication protocol, but rather a recognized international standard (IEC 61131-9).

2.   How is an IO-Link Sensor Different From a Standard IO Sensor?

Compared to a standard IO sensor, a sensor with IO-Link allows the user to see much more data about the sensor and even allows the ability to change the sensor’s settings without having to stop a manufacturing or production line to access the individual sensor. With an IO-Link sensor, you are also able to store parameters or settings inside of a master block, such as Comtrol offers, which can then be loaded to a brand new, factory-default device if necessary.

3.   What Kind of Data Can You See with IO-Link?

With IO-Link, you can see the manufacturer information and part number, among other data, of your sensors that are connected to the master block. So, if a sensor needs replacement but the lettering of the manufacturer or part number has rubbed off or become illegible, you can quickly see the exact model that needs to be replaced with this information already built in with IO-Link. This is also called Service Date, information that is not relative to a device’s function but rather about the device itself.

You can also view sensor performance and diagnostic information remotely through an IO-Link sensor. This is called Process Data (information that the sensor is reading, like temperature or distance) or Event Data (notifications or flags indicating, for example, a dirty lens, an error, communication loss to a sensor, etc.)

4.   What Kinds of Settings Can Be Changed with IO-Link?

A user can change the settings of an individual sensor without stopping the line to manually change the sensor settings one-by-one. With a web interface for instance, the user is provided access to these settings remotely. One of the most common uses of this capability is to change the read ranges of the sensors for product changeover.For example, if a manufacturer is producing “Product A” and “Product B” on the same line and needs to change sensor settings in-between the processes, this can be achieved by storing parameter sets in the PLC and then sending them out through the master block to sensors when a change is needed. The result? With IO-Link there is a potential for drastic reduction in downtime.

5.   What is an IO-Link System Comprised Of?

An IO-Link system consists of IO-Link sensors or actuators and an IO-Link master block. The information from an IO-Link device is communicated through an industrial Ethernet protocol, most commonly EtherNet/IP, PROFINET/IO, or Modbus TCP. The user can then access the sensor-level information and change sensor data remotely via the embedded web interface, PLC, HMI or other controller.

6.   Do I need a PLC to use IO-Link?

It depends on your industry and application. For example, Comtrol worked with one systems integrator in the mining industry that did not have a PLC present for a project. Instead, they used a connected PC to access sensor-level data from their presence detection IO-Link sensors. This allowed them to remotely view the results of the sensors checking for the presence of minerals.

7.   What are the Key Benefits of IO-Link?

IO-Link has three primary benefits: remote accessibility, auto-device replacement, and diagnostic capability. All of these key features of IO-Link contribute to reducing costly downtime, generally at manufacturing or production plants, and also gives the user much more information about their sensors or actuators.

Remote Accessibility: Refers to the capability to access sensor-level information and make changes from anywhere, as long as the user is able to connect to the a master and/or a network.

Auto-Device Replacement: Refers to IO-Link’s data storage feature that allows the user to download an old sensor’s data into a new sensor for seamless device replacement. This means that the new sensor can be quickly installed with all the settings of its predecessor, which ensures the line can be up and running in a timely manner.

Diagnostic Capability: Refers to the ability to see errors and other important information without having to stop the entire line to investigate the problem. For example, in material handling applications, a problem with a sensor would traditionally mean shutting down the system so that a person can access it and manually troubleshoot and makes changes to the device. With the ability to see error codes or other events through the web interface, the user can quickly identify which sensor is malfunctioning and what the problem is. No line shutdown required.

8.   What Industries Are Adopting IO-Link Technology?

Key industries that Comtrol is seeing use IO-Link include automotive, material handling, manufacturing, food & beverage, and many other industries, especially those that experience frequent changeover or typically long downtime.


Originally seen on SICK USA’s Blog:


Comtrol to Exhibit at Profinet One-Day Training Class

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We will be exhibiting at the Profinet One-Day Training Class on March 1, a free event that provides training on how to apply PROFINET in your own projects. Comtrol will be featuring our IO-Link Masters as well as our RocketLinx Switches and DeviceMaster UP Gateways.

This class is designed for:

  • End Users
  • OEMs
  • System Integrators
  • Manufacturers of automation devices

PROFINET is a standard, unmodified Ethernet protocol designed to support the latest automation strategies. Learn more.

Event Date: March 1, 2016  

Fremont Marriott Silicon Valley

46100 Landing Pkwy Fremont, CA 94538 USA

Click here to Register now.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Brandon Roy at or 763.957.6127

Comtrol Corporation to attend the Axis AE Technology Summit in Coronado, CA

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – February 18th – Comtrol Corporation, a leading manufacturer of industrial device communication products, will be attending the Axis AE Technology Summit.  The event will be held in Coronado, California at the Coronado Island Marriot Resort and Spa from Wednesday February 24th at 6:00 PM to Saturday the 27th at 8:00 PM PT.

 Mobile Surveillance

 The Axis AE Technology Summit will feature many companies showcasing their best security products.  Comtrol will be featuring our RocketLinx Power over Ethernet switch products.  The RocketLinx PoE series are ruggedized with drip-proof housings, redundant power inputs and performance command-line interfaces, these RocketLinx PoE switches provide reliable networking solutions.


MoboTrex Distribution Missouri User’s Group

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We will be exhibiting at Mobotrex (Formerly Known as Brown Traffic Products, Inc.) Missouri User’s Group 2016 on Wednesday February 24 and Thursday February 25 between 7:30 AM and 4:00 PM.

 St. Louis Marriott West
660 Maryville Centre Drive
St. Louis, MO 63141-5816


About Missouri User’s Group 2016:

The User’s Group is an excellent opportunity for customers to network, meet leading traffic industry manufacturers one on one and experience classroom sessions on innovative technology.

The registration fee of $40.00 includes:

  • 2 days of informational and technical training
  • Opportunity to meet vendors one on one
  • Continental Breakfast, breaks and lunch each day

Attendance certificates will be provided after the event (up to 12 PDH’s or 12 IMSA renewal hours, as well as TARP points for IMSA members.) Don’t miss this opportunity to receive valuable training and to earn continuing education hours

Register here!

If you have any questions, please contact Katya at: or 763-957-6122

MoboTrex Minnesota User’s Group

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We will be exhibiting at Mobotrex (Formerly Known as Brown Traffic Products, Inc.) Minnesota User’s Group 2016 on Wednesday January 27 and Thursday January 28 between 7:30 AM and 4:00 PM.

Embassy Suites Minneapolis Airport
7901 34th Avenue South
Bloomington, MN 55425

Brown Traffic 2016

About Minnesota User’s Group 2016:
The User’s Group is an excellent opportunity for customers to network, meet leading traffic industry manufacturers one on one and experience classroom sessions on innovative technology.

The registration fee of $40.00 includes:

  • 2 days of informational and technical training
  • Opportunity to meet vendors one on one
  • Continental Breakfast, breaks and lunch each day


If you have any questions, please contact Katya Lee at or 763-957-6122

Check Out What You Missed at the North American IO-Link Workshop

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Comtrol recently hosted the 2015 IO-Link North American Competency Workshop. The workshop highlighted presentations from recognized experts on the use and deployment of IO-Link, showcased manufacturers from all around the world, and was attended by many network engineers, system integrators and ultimate end users of this new standard. View a short clip of the workshop here.

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North American IO-Link Workshop

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North American IO-Link Ad.3

IO-Link Technology Workshop is held by Comtrol Corporation, the North American IO-Link Competency Center. This workshop will consist of a Vendor Technology Expo area and “classroom” style presentations from IO-Link Consortium members.

This workshop will be held on Tuesday, October 13th in Minneapolis from 9am to 5pm.

Join us to learn about the following IO-Link Themes:
-Comprehensive insight into IO-Link Themes
-Meet with IO-Link Vendor partners
-Real world examples on configuration of sensors and actuators, PLC Integration, and Automatic device replacement.

If you are interested in attending our workshop or interested in learning more please, click here.



IMSA 2015

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IMSA 2015 Annual Conference & School

Come visit us at booth #321 where we’ll be featuring our RocketLinx Switches at the 2015 IMSA Conference in New Orleans. You could be a guest to this event by receiving a free day pass!

The event will be held from August 23-25 at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans

601 Loyola Avenue

New Orleans, LA 70113

If you have any questions or would like to set up a meeting please contact: Katya Lee at

+1 763-957-6122 or at

Material Handling with IO-Link

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Material Handling with IO-LinkA large industrial supplier in the Midwestern U.S. uses small and large plastic totes to transport material throughout their factory. As these totes move along the line, there are designated locations where they are empty and need to be stacked, but often times these totes entered the stacking area with material left inside, which caused the stacker machine to jam. To prevent this from continuing, the industrial supplier turned to a systems integrator and Comtrol’s IO-Link Master.

Due to its simple installation, the system integrator opted to use Comtrol’s IO Link Master DR-8-EIP to control Leuze Electronic IO-Link enabled light curtains and laser distance measuring sensors. With this implementation, the light curtains determine how the totes are stacked while the laser distance measuring devices scan for contents inside the totes.

The IO-Link Master DR-8-EIP offers eight IO-Link ports, two dedicated Digital Input/Digital Output ports, and ten Digital Input ports. With this configuration, the IO-Link Master allows the flexibility to support up to 20 device connections.

To continue reading “Material Handling with IO-Link”: CLICK HERE

To learn more about Comtrol’s IO-Link Master CLICK HERE 


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