HMI Approaches Commodity Status (Part 1)

Seems Like Everybody Provides Windows and Web Servers These Days


Although major control equipment vendors always try to keep their operator interface hardware and software as proprietary as they can, the rush to use COTS (commercial off the shelf) equipment is forcing nearly all suppliers into the same technology corner.

In other words, most HMI hardware and software come with the same Intel and Microsoft logos. In fact, few vendors even bother to list details about the COTS systems that form the base of their products. They may list details about the HMI screens, or the number of I/O you can connect, but few bother to tell you that their basic hardware is a PC, the software supports Windows, .Net and XML, and the system has Ethernet ports and a web server. That is all but assumed, because HMI systems are becoming commodities.

Although HMI hardware and software is approaching commodity status because of the COTS platform, what OEMs expect from that commodity is getting extremely complex. The first HMI vendor who can offer a reasonably priced product that does everything a machine builder has come to expect may run away with the market.

Meanwhile, the products that follow illustrate a representative selection of the latest HMIs and OIs from industrial hardware and software vendors.


Gray Terminal Gets Bright

PanelView 1000 Grayscale Terminals have a brighter LCD that sharpens contrast and makes the display easier to read, even in brighter light. Its contrast ratio of 300:1 makes the display suitable for environments using halogen or fluorescent lights. It uses the same PanelBuilder32 development software as the full family of PanelView standard terminals, has a long-life, field-replaceable backlight, and is a direct drop-in replacement for the older PanelView 1000 terminal Rockwell Automation; 800/223-05354; www.



HMI Gets on DeviceNet

The GLC2000 Series of HMIs and controllers has a Master Module to control a DeviceNet I/O network. Off-line menus configure a slave's MAC address and baud rate, and the HMI's development software can read the contents of a user-provided EDS file. The module supports polled, bit-strobe, change of state, and cyclic connection types, and it supports up to 63 slaves. HMIs are available in 5.7-in. monochrome or color, 7.4-in. color, and 12.1-in. display sizes. Xycom Automation; 734.429.4971;


HMI Software Runs on PDAs

LabView 7 Express works on PCs plus embedded FPGAs, Palm OS devices, and Microsoft Pocket PC PDAs. It has 40 built-in virtual instrument (VI) functions for tasks such as data acquisition, signal analysis, file I/O, and interfacing to GPIB, serial, VXI, and similar instruments. A real-time module helps users develop deterministic, real-time, and embedded control applications; another module sets up distributed monitoring and control systems. National Instruments; 800/258-7022;


Touchscreens Work With PLCs

The HG family of touchscreens includes the HG4F with 12.1-in. TFT LCD screen, 256 colors, and 1,200 touch regions, and the HG3F with 10.4-in. LCD screen, 256 colors, and 768 touch regions. Both are RS-232, RS-485, and RS-422 compatible, have a built-in 10BaseT Ethernet connection, and support Compact Flash memory. Other models include the HG2F with a 256-color, full-function touchscreen and 192 touch regions; HG2F-C with monochrome display; and HG1X series of text message displays. IDEC; 800/262-4332;

HMI Software Gets Webbed

InteractX v.1.8 software has TCP/IP networking and 18 pre-configured, panel tools for buttons, lights, gauges, and readouts. The software provides alarm management functions, an OPC client and server support network, and support for VBA and ActiveX. It has an embedded web browser and an integrated browsing tool for viewing web-enabled documents and media. The software runs on Windows-compatible industrial PCs. Compumotor; 707/584-2449;


Touchscreen Operator Interfaces

Silver Series touchscreen HMIs have 10BaseT Ethernet, compact flash interface, real-time clock, and printer connectivity, and are available with 6, 8, and 10-in. displays. Programming software contains full-color graphics libraries with 500 common symbols and objects, popup windows, bar graphs and trends, and customizable data entry keypads. Objects can be overlaid to perform multiple functions with a single touch. It has protocol support for 85 controllers. Maple Systems; 425/745-3229;


HMI Talks to Multiple PLCs

From a single screen, NS operator interface can access information from PLCs on an Ethernet network, a ControllerLink network, and up to two serial ports simultaneously. It also has a four-channel video-input module to display camera images from vision inspection sensors. Its ladder monitor tool allows a PLC's ladder program to be monitored from a system menu, so the user doesn't have to use a laptop or PC to troubleshoot. Omron Electronics; 800/55OMRON;


OI on the Highway

Available with 6, 8 and 10-in. touchscreens, EZTouch panels connect to Modbus TCP/IP, as well as Data Highway Plus, or Ethernet. Operator panels have built-in clock and calendar, screen password protection, 16 levels of undo and redo, 512K battery-backed RAM, and are available with color or monochrome screens. Configuration software allows online editing and has a library of 2,000 bitmapped graphical images. AutomationDirect; 800/633-0405;

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