The pursuit of Industry 4.0 requires addressing three main roadblocks to unleash the full potential of creating “Smart Factories.”

The three focus areas that are needed to implement Industry 4.0 are:

  • The ability to communicate with equipment all the way down to the factory floor.
  • Development of smart sensors and actuators that provide the manufacturing line an ability to perform adaptive manufacturing. This will enable economies of scale and improve return on investment by enabling a single production line to be re-configured remotely so it can be re-used to manufacture numbers of different products.
  • Integration of diagnostics is necessary to provide predictive maintenance, which in turn can help keep a manufacturing line up and running 24 hours/day and 365 days/year to ensure increased productivity.

These Industry 4.0 challenges provide new opportunities for semiconductor manufacturers to apply advanced process technologies that improve power efficiency and reduce power consumption. It also demands higher levels of integration to shrink and reduce component footprints inside programmable logic controllers (the brains behind all factory/process automation) and enables the integration of diagnostic capabilities.

In addition, the acceptance of a new industry-wide intelligent sensor bus, called IO Link, enables sensors and actuators to become smarter which provides a new capability to support adaptive manufacturing.

By achieving a small PLC footprint, providing the capability of adaptive manufacturing via IO Link technology and integrating diagnostics inside silicon solutions to help predict the need for maintenance, Industry 4.0 is being realised around the world and enabling some countries that gave up on manufacturing the ability to re-shore this capability and improve their economies.

Jeff DeAngelis is Managing Director of the Industrial & Healthcare Business Unit at Maxim Integrated. He coordinates 5 core business lines that produce ICs for the industrial and healthcare markets.