Seeing is believing: Functions fuel HMI demand

Our annual Product Roundup of HMI software and operator interface hardware reveals that technological advances in development should sustain current market growth over the next few years.

By Rick Pedraza, Digital Managing Editor

PRICES FOR HMI software and operator interface (OI) hardware in the discrete and process manufacturing industries have been falling steadily over the past few years, according to industry market researchers at Frost & Sullivan.

Some price declines have been a result of lower-quality, lower-priced imports entering the market, the study states, but maturing market conditions also have played a role.

"There is an increase in demand for web-based HMIs that offer reduced operating costs,” notes Frost research analyst A.S. Udayachandra. “On the other hand, it’s created more concerns about company security. The possibility of people accessing vital information and deliberately causing disruption and acts of terrorism raises the need to address the issue of security."

Udayachandra adds manufacturers of new HMI products must provide potential customers with adequate precautionary measures, especially for web-based systems, and that this can be done through infrastructure and access protection measures.

Venture Development Corp. says the North American market for industrial OI terminals totaled $659 million last year, with shipments expected to grow 7.3% to $760 million in 2006. HMI software revenue derived from North American markets totaled $244 million last year, VDC reports, and is expected to reach $281 million in 2006.

Jim Taylor, VDC’s industrial automation and control director, says the market for OI terminals was the largest among all the hardware product types VDC studied. This market also is expected to have the largest growth in dollar volume through 2006. The high demand for graphic terminal products is a result of the shift away from graphic monitors, he says, and to some extent from PC-based solutions.
The largest share of these HMI software revenues come from end-user applications, Taylor says, with smaller shares for OEM and system integrator applications. However, a major shift is forecast, with the share for OEM and systems integrator applications expected to be the largest in 2006, according to Taylor.

Similarly, new technologies and form factors are responsible for much HMI software growth, according to market analysis by ARC Advisory Group. Its forecast through 2008 shows the influence of regulatory requirements, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 21 CFR Part 11 rules and the TREAD act, which demand electronic tracking and tracing capabilities from HMI software. This evolution, says ARC, will continue as HMI software becomes a component of current web-based architectures, and as web services emerge to become the next delivery system for presentation and control processes.


Product Roundup:
HMI Software and OI Hardware

Third-Party Hearty Integration
iFix 4.0 automation software has an extendable architecture that handles PLC information, including configuration and tags. Automated configuration capabilities support the Siemens S7 PLC, Allen-Bradley PLC networks and other OPC sources. Users can drill into tag details, instantly trend variables, view enterprise data through hosted portal displays, and deliver thin-client connectivity to SCADA nodes through terminal services. GE Fanuc; 800/GE FANUC; www.gefanuc.com

Bigger Monitor Fits Neatly
LSX19 industrial flat-panel monitor has wide viewing angles and enhanced brightness, a higher temperature range, and native modeSXGA resolution. The 19-in. display is designed for complete mechanical and electrical interchangeability with an 18-in. installed base, and uses the same cut out, mounting scheme, power, and interface. Christensen Display Products; 425/222-3800; www.christensendisplay.com

Vividly Touchable Visibility
Touchscreens are available with 256-color and high-pixel resolution. The units have expansion digital I/O modules for basic PLC control, Ethernet support to remotely monitor equipment, CompactFlash, data storage, a large memory capacity, and options for several communication methods. The touchscreens work standalone, or communicate with many PLC brands with the Ethernet/IP protocol. IDEC; 408/745-5215; www.idec.com

Do It Yourself HMI Instruments
Developers toolkit helps machinery HMIs use the latest Microsoft .NET technologies, providing two 100% managed code components that plug into Visual Studio 2003 and 2005. Instrumentation .NET components provide more than 50 different user interface components, including gauges, meters, sliders, switches and trend charts. Software Toolbox; 704/849-2773; www.softwaretoolbox.com

Touch and Go Get Connected
InstantHMI 4.0 bundles with Windows CE .NET touch panels in 5.7 and 12.1-in. sizes. Connectivity features include three serial ports (RS-232/485 configurable), an Ethernet port, and three USB 2.0 ports. The built-in CompactFlash card slot and 44-pin IDE interface provide storage options. The system can be customized with specialized interfaces, pre-programmed tag databases and graphical screens. Software Horizons; 800/664-2000; www.shorizons.com

PC Scalable to Best Fit
Industrial panel PC has an Intel Pentium 4, a rugged enclosure, and a drop-in design for plug-and-play use. It is available in a 12.1-in. SVGA or XGA LCD, and in a 17-in. SXGA LCD, with wide viewing angles, high contrast ratios and high brightness. Temperature range is 0-50 ºC, and integrated touchscreen options (four-wire and seven-wire) are available. Apollo Display Technologies; 631/580-4360; www.apollodisplays.com

Configurator Sends Recipes
WatView configurator connects one or more controllers equipped with serial communications to a Windows PC. It includes a recipe template builder and recipe editor feature that allows users to save sets of parameters, then download them to one or more controllers. The program also is capable of backing-up/transferring settings between multiple controllers, and storing an unlimited number of profiles on a PC. Watlow; 800/4-WATLOW; www.watlow.com

True Integration Across Processors
Q Series automation controller can share complex operations across several processors with rapid response by integrating sequence control, complex servo motion profiles, continuous process control, and operator touchscreens for setup and easy adjustments. One processor (CPU) can coordinate 32 servo axes. A second CPU might handle high-speed standard I/O, while a third CPU could serve a Windows PC that runs third-party software for data collection. Mitsubishi Electric Automation; 847/478-2100; www.meau.com

Graphic Terminal Talks Too
QTerm-Z60 operator terminal uses touchscreen graphics, comes equipped with one switch-selectable serial port, and can communicate via EIA-232, EIA-422 or EIA-485. The unit has a QVGA, 320 x 240-pixel, 256-color STN color LCD display, and is viewable in most lighting conditions. It also has 2 Mb flash/16 Mb SDRAM, programmable speaker, and 5 VDC/200 mA output from the interface connector to power external devices. QSI; 801/466-8770; www.qsicorp.com

Panel PC Packs HMI to Hardware
PPC-2015 15-in. color panel PC with a resistive touchscreen and a 2.0 GHz Pentium 4 processor runs on Windows XP with a 40 GB hard drive. It provides a fully functional HMI for all NI PAC hardware through an Ethernet port and offers five USB ports and two PCI slots for connectivity to PCI-based data acquisition boards or external USB-based data acquisition modules. National Instruments; 800/258-7022; www.ni.com

Thin PC Expands Memory, Networking
Simatic Panel PC577 is equipped with a 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 processor with memory that can be expanded to 3 GB. A USB 2.0 port is integrated in the front of the unit for quick data storage. Two Ethernet ports, three USB 2.0 ports, one COM1 port, one VGA port, and a MPI/Profibus connection are integrated into the unit. A 75-mm installation depth makes it suitable where space is at a premium. Siemens E&A; 770/751-4959; www.usa.siemens.com

Touchscreens Link Users to Apps
Touchscreen control panels provide interface between the operator and machine or process for production and security needs. All panels communicate with Modbus, Profibus-DP, Ethernet and other common drivers/buses. Web-enabled and batch-capable versions are available, as well as those ready for barcode reader, printer, modem and radio applications. Full batch capability is resident along with data-logging capability to offload work from a PLC. ABB; 940/397-7113; www.us.abb.com

Control, Visualization in One Box
EZTouch integrates control and visualization for small to medium machines that require touch-type graphical displays. The system integrates a micro modular PLC base with either 32 I/O (for 6-in. units) or 64 I/O (for 8, 10 and 15-in. units) available. Snap-in EZI/O modules can be chosen from numerous options, including analog I/O, high-speed counter, relay and AC/DC combo modules. Connectivity to Ethernet TCP/IP, Profibus and Devicenet allows the user to address remote I/O, and connect to just about any device on the plant floor. AVG; 563/359-7501; www.avg.net

HMI Software Sweetens GUIs
ioDisplay HMI enables design of operator interfaces on Windows-based clients. With ioDisplay Basic, users can create graphical user interfaces using original or preset symbols. There is support for alarm management, recipe handling, operator logging, real-time and historical trending, multimedia and unlimited tags. ioDisplay Professional adds the ability to import HMI projects developed with OptoDisplay, and gives users a migration path to newer HMI systems. Opto 22; 909/695-3010; www.opto22.com

Keep in Intelligent Touch
InTouch 9.5 HMI software supports intelligent alarm techniques, dynamic operator guidance, runtime language switching, and virtually unlimited scalability. ArchestrA architecture enables reusable, distributed application development with centralized deployment and maintenance. SmartSymbols integrate object-oriented technology with graphics and transform them into reusable templates. Changes automatically propagate throughout an application, even across multiple networked PC nodes. Invensys; 714/757-6900; www.wonderware.com

Powerful, Controller Performance
Power Panel 200 offers the functions of a controller, including modular fieldbus interfaces and input systems that range from analog resistive touchscreens to various keyboard devices. Equipped with a 266 MHz processor, Ethernet 10/100, serial interface, USB interface and CompactFlash slot, the units come with up to two slots for interface modules that can communicate to I/O points, intelligent servo drives and third-party devices. B&R Industrial Automation; 770/772-0400; www.br-automation.com 

Into Bright Light
StealthVU SV-1700-HB high-brightness LCD monitor operates in ambient light with resolutions up to 1,280 x 1,024 pixels. The 17-in. monitor has a brightness rating of 1,300 Nits and meets NEMA 4/IP66 standards intended for indoor or outdoor use. Plug-and-play capability requires no video drivers or special interface cards. Optional touchscreens are available with resistive, capacitive and surface acoustic wave technology for point-and-click operation. Stealth Computer; 905/64-9000; www.stealthcomputer.com

Grayscale, Color Operator Panels
C-more touch panels are available in either grayscale or full-color models. STN grayscale and color displays are available in a 6-in. touchscreen. Color TFT touchscreens are available in 6, 8, 10, 12, or 15-in. versions. Hardware features include an analog touchscreen, 10 MB or 40 MB project memory (depending on model), serial RS232/422/485, Ethernet 10/100BaseT ports, and two USB ports. AutomationDirect; 800-633-0405; www.automationdirect.com

Intuitive Configuration Software
H-Designer configuration software guides users through all aspects of project creation using Windows formats and fonts. The configurator selects between thumbnail and detailed zoomed views, and the software supports ladder programming or macro creation, allowing data changes to the controller and I/O setting/resetting. Beijer Electronics; 888/350-1306; www.beijerelectronics.com

Compact HMIs Offer Many Interfaces
IndraControl VCP series of compact HMIs are available with screen sizes from 3-in. monochrome displays to 5.7-in. color touchscreens. The terminals provide flexibility and open connectivity due to many available interfaces, including serial, Ethernet, Profibus, Interbus and DeviceNet. Programming is achieved with Windows-based VI-Composer software. Bosch Rexroth; 800/REXROTH; www.boschrexroth-us.com

Return of the Clones
VersaView cloning utility helps industrial computer users back up and restore systems quickly and efficiently, using Symantec Ghost 8.0 cloning to create a duplicate image of the computer’s hard drive, which can be stored on an unused portion of the hard drive or on external devices and networks. There is no limit to how many times an image can be created, and each time a backup is made, the new image replaces the previous one. Rockwell Automation; 800/223.5354 x1804; www.rockwellautomation.com

Three Networks on One Screen
NS advanced operator interface can access information from PLCs on up to three networks via a single screen. Information can be accessed simultaneously from an Ethernet network, a ControllerLink network and up to two serial ports. The HMI features a four-channel video input module to display camera images from vision inspection sensors. The OI comes with 4 MB of onboard memory for screen data, expandable to 20 MB. Omron; 866/88-OMRON; www.omron.com/oei

OI Designed for CNC Control
CP6842-xxxx and CP7842-xxxx operator interface panel control functions can be integrated in the keyboard extension below the display unit, including emergency stop buttons, electromechanical keys, 45 membrane keys for axis control, spindle and override, and two gray code switches. Panels can be installed at the machine, connected from the top, or via an adapter plate. Display sizes are 6.5 to 20 in. Beckhoff Automation; 952/890-0000; www.beckhoffautomation.com

Nice, Rugged Form
TPC-60S touch panel computer has a slim form factor and is NEMA4/IP65-compliant. The system uses a low-power, fanless, ARM CPU running at 266 MHz and runs Windows CE .NET 4.2 or as a thin-client. It comes with 64 MB flash memory soldered on board and a CompactFlash slot for extra storage. I/O interface features include three serial ports, one Ethernet port (10/100BaseT), two USB ports (one for host, one for client) and a LED indicator for the LAN. Advantech; 800-800-6889; www.advantech.com/eautomation

Software Eases E-Sigs
InteractX version 2.0 software integrates new tools to simplify operator tracking and 21 CFR Part 11 rules compliance. E-Signature tools track events transparently, as part of daily operator activities, or they can be used for operator authentication and supervisor approval. The standard software package features fully rendered and scalable graphics, object-style development tools, unlimited tag runtimes, 45+ standard communications drivers, real-time data acquisition, complete tag editing, and integrated VBA and ActiveX tools. Parker Automation-CTC; 513/831-2340; www.ctcusa.com

Expressive, Multi-Media HMI
AGP3750 multi-port, multi-media, 15-in. operator interface touchscreen includes an XGA display with a high-resolution, no-grid, analog-resistive touchscreen. It includes video, sound, Ethernet, USB, serial and CompactFlash ports, and up to four protocols can be active at one time. With self-guiding, intuitive GP Pro Ex software, the unit can be configured to display four video camera outputs, accept sound input from a microphone, and output sound files to machine operators. Xycom Automation; 734/429-4971; www.xycom.com

Low-Power CPU Aids Fanless Panel
GOT-1840T fanless panel computer is equipped with an 8.4-in. TFT LCD and low-power consumption CPU and can be used in temperature ranges from -10 to 50 °C. The panel supports Windows 98/NT/2000/XP, CE.NET, XP embedded, and Linux. High-speed Ethernet or RS-232/422/485 serial ports provide communication. Its 2.5-in. HDD or CompactFlash card slot is reserved for storage, and a 16-bit PC/104 slot can be used for extended communication cards, a DA&C card or a PC/104 motion card. Axiomtek; 626/581-3232; www.axiomtek.com

Customizable, handheld has HMI
Handheld platform can be used to design a custom, portable instrument with HMI. The device features a 128 x 128-pixel LCD for showing text and graphical images, hosts a 16 MHz microprocessor, 512K Flash, and 128K RAM (expandable to 1 MB Flash and 512 K RAM), and 320 bytes of EEPROM. Mosaic Industries; 510/790-125; www.mosaic-industries.com

Consistent Interface is Key
ASComm.NET library gives users a consistent user-interface regardless of the target hardware or protocol. Drivers can be added without effecting existing code or requiring special handling. The .NET library delivers read/write data transfer capability and implements tag database functionality. Tags can be created, added to groups with a specified update interval, and can be synchronously or asynchronously read/written. Automated Solutions; 707/575-9631; www.automatedsolutions.com

LCD Panel PC Supports Video
ARP-2606AP industrial LCD panel computer is equipped with a 6.4-in. LCD and a VIA Eden 667 MHz processor. Video support features a built-in VGA controller with up to 32 MB of shared memory for display. The system comes with three RS-232 ports, a four-wire resistive touchscreen and an optional PCMCIA for wireless applications. Arista; 510/226-1800; www.aristaipc.com