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.

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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

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