An industrial networking solution (protocol, data access method and physical layer) that is used in a distributed control system (DCS), programmable logic controller (PLC), and PC-based automation system is called an actuator sensor interface or AS-i. An AS-i is designed to connect field input/output (I/O) devices (for instance ON/OFF devices such as rotary encoders, sensors, push buttons, valve position sensors, and analog inputs and outputs) in process applications and discrete manufacturing using a single 2-conductor cable.
Electrical cables are rapidly getting replaced by actuator sensor interface cables in the automation industry and the same is used to connect various I/O field devices, for example sensors, proximity switches, actuators, and process valves. Fieldbus, an industrial computer network protocol, is designed for ideal communication between sensors and actuators, and is greatly preferred by vendors of automation equipment.
The design of a fieldbus ensures smooth communication between actuators and sensors, and thus is highly preferred by automation equipment vendors. Low-cost remote I/O solutions for higher level Fieldbus networks are offered by AS-i. High level fieldbus networks such as Interbus, industrial Ethernet, Profibus, and DeviceNet use these I/O solutions and the communication is speeded up between sensors, controllers, and actuators.
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Low cost features, simplicity, interoperability, and flexibility of the AS-i network makes it a preferred option amongst manufacturers in the automation industry across different countries and thus this factor is expected to drive the growing demand for actuator sensor interface or AS-i in the years to come. Impact of these factors is expected to remain consistent during the forecast period.
The market of actuator sensor interface is segmented on the basis of end user. The segment is thus divided into process automation industry and discrete automation industry. The latest trend that the AS-i market is experiencing is increasing inclination toward process automation. Many industries are taking up Internet of Things (IoT) and industry 4.0 to maximize material flow and identify errors at the very initial stages of a product’s life cycle. Greater efficiency, enhanced safety, high profitability, and predictive maintenance of machines are derived from the integration of cyber systems and physical systems in industrial manufacturing.
Communication networks such as Ethernet technologies are used by the process automation sector to improve productivity at low cost. Process automation sector also uses communication networks such as fieldbus technologies (like AS-i) that connects programmable logic controllers (PLC) to field I/O devices like sensors, switches, valves, and actuators, leading to better productivity at quite a low cost. Deployment of Ethernet becomes complex at various hazardous areas of process industries. This leads to the need for AS-i and the same is used as a partner network to the Ethernet to enable connection of various field devices like sensors, switches, controllers, and actuators.
Geographically, the market is segmented into Americas, Asia Pacific (APAC), Europe, and Middle East and Africa (EMEA). EMEA region led the AS-i market in 2015 owing to the increasing requirement of plant automation to optimize output and efficiency. Various European companies are employing low-level networking solutions as network partners for higher-level networking solutions like Fieldbus and Ethernet to obtain operational excellence.
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Most of the vendors in the AS-i systems market come from the global Ethernet and Fieldbus solutions market. High profitability and operational expertise that is gained by installing AS-i network has compelled many manufacturing companies to obtain insights about the AS-i network. The market has become highly competitive due to the increasing implementation of AS-i networking solutions in industrial
Some of the key players of the AS-i market are Bihl+Wiedemann (Germany), Baumer (Switzerland), Siemens (Germany), Ifm Electronic (Germany), StoneL (U.S), and Pepperl+Fuchs.