HMI Software Takes on More Responsibility

Product Roundup and Review of New OI Hardware and HMI Software

By Rich Merritt

It used to be that you'd buy an human-machine interface (HMI) just to get an operator interface (OI); that is, a device that lets you look into the machine to see what was going on, and adjust or control what you saw. Plain-vanilla OIs are certainly still available, but the overall role of HMIs is changing. Today, HMIs are taking over control, data acquisition, web access, maintenance, diagnostics and enterprise functions. The OI function remains, of course, but telling an operator what is going on seems to be the least of an HMI's many tasks.

Virtually all desktop and panel HMIs now are based on a PC architecture and run some version of Windows. A certain number of handheld and PDA-based HMIs also are appearing and, while all are not Windows-based, the ones we see are compatible with the Windows architecture.

The “big iron” HMIs can be extremely powerful PCs, capable of running just about any control, data acquisition or SCADA software package. Many HMIs serve as the gateway between a machine and its CMMS, ERP, supply chain, and other high-level software packages. That is, they gather the data from plant floor equipment, put it into XML or some other common database format, and ship it off to the enterprise software in a timely fashion.

HMIs also can be extremely tiny, embedded, diskless processors that operate inside equipment and machines. When equipped with an embedded Windows operating system such as Windows CE, the embedded systems provide many of the functions of the big iron systems.

HMIs big and small also serve as the gateway to the web for many machines. The HMI hosts the necessary web servers that allow remote PCs or HMIs to access web pages via the Internet. Web access lets your customer be paged at home, receive an e-mail that tells him of a problem at the factory, helps him find out what is going on via his home PC's browser, and allows him to make the necessary setpoint changes at 3:00 a.m.—all without having to run back to the factory.

For a machine builder, embedding an HMI with web capability helps with after-sales support. With a built-in web server, control software updates, bug fixes, diagnostics and other functions can be accomplished remotely. For example, if a customer reports a problem, web-based diagnostics may be able to identify and solve the problem without sending a technician.

The new breed of HMI/SCADA systems are selling fast. ARC Research says the HMI software market will reach $559 million by 2008, an annual growth rate of 5%. That's faster than the overall automation market. “HMI and related software has become a critical component in the infrastructure for successfully managing manufacturing operations,” says ARC's research director, Craig Resnick.

Industrial Flat-screen 
Industrial flat-screen monitors are available with 15, 17 and 21-in. displays, with or without touchscreens. The monitors carry a NEMA-4 rating, and touchscreen models use analog-resistive technology. Mounting of the monitors has been simplified with the use of an easy-clip mounting system. Automation Systems Interconnect; 877/650-5160; www.asi-ez.com

Touchscreen Computers Run HMI Software 
Operator Interface Computers are fully functioning, touchscreen computers with a Windows XP Professional operating system. They contain an embedded XP option using Compact Flash technology for harsh environments. A quick-change mechanism enables easy maintenance by allowing a quick connect or disconnect of the display from the computer. Options include 10 and 12-in. display screens plus connectivity support for PLCs, drives and other industrial devices. Wonderware 949/753-9292x244; www.wonderware.com

Determined Priority 
The ControlNet Scheduled Communications module provides deterministic, repeatable communication for PanelView Plus HMI and VersaView CE computers. Unlike unscheduled communications, which use leftover bandwidth as it becomes available, the scheduled module takes priority placement on the network's bandwidth, guaranteeing that a signal will transmit within a specified time period. Users can schedule how often a controller is updated with data. Rockwell Automation; 800/223-5354x1769; www.ra.rockwell.com

HMI Software Is a Snap
IODisplay helps machine builders develop operator interfaces that communicate with the company's Snap-LCE controllers and Snap Ultimate I/O controllers. The HMI has alarming, trending, security, and a built-in library of 3,000 industrial automation graphics. It also has a multithreaded scanning engine. Opto 22; 800/321-6786; www.opto22.com

Display Uses Flash to Swap Apps 
The 5.7-in. HG2F display has a built-in Compact Flash slot that will accept standard CF cards up to 512 MB. A CF card can store multiple projects that can be transferred to another operator interface without using a computer. In addition, alarm and trend log data, recipe data and hardcopies of the screens can be saved to a CF card. IDEC; 408/745-5257; www.idec.com

Where in the World is …? 
InstantHMI PDA Clipboard validates data entries by automatically recording the person's physical location and time when data is entered. Using the Global Positioning System, the location of the device is always known. Bar coding and RFID can be used to make the capturing of data automatic and more reliable. The HMI is compatible with Allen-Bradley, Koyo, Mitsubishi, Modicon, Omni Flow, Siemens, Trio, Toshiba, Watlow, Wago and Yaskawa controllers. Software Horizons; 800/664-2000; www.InstantHMI.com

Monitor Scales up and Down 
Enhancements to the LS12 12-in. flat-panel monitor family include better viewing angles and brightness, a higher temperature range, down scaling and up scaling to 1024x768 XGA resolution. The optical enhancements enable operators to more easily see critical information from more locations in their work area. Christensen Display Products; 425/222-3800; www.christensendisplay.com

Software Puts Apps on a PDA  
The LabView 7.1 PDA Module software helps develop applications that will run on any Pocket PC 2003 consumer PDA device and on some industrial devices, including handhelds and touch-panel screens. The software supports a Bluetooth interface, PCMCIA, four programmable PDA buttons, and a PDA touchscreen. For data acquisition, it has a 200 kS/sec sampling rate, the ability to scan across multiple channels, and access to functionality on PCMCIA devices such as analog and digital triggering. National Instruments; 512/683.5931; www.ni.com

HMI Drives Drives  
IndraControl VCP Series HMIs can be connected to the company's drives and controls, and are available with hardware options and screen sizes ranging from four-line (16 character) text-based displays to full graphic color touchscreens, and serial, Ethernet, Profibus, Interbus and DeviceNet interfaces. Programming is via VI-Composer software. Bosch Rexroth; 847/645-3774; www.boschrexroth-us.com

Web-enabled OIT 
WebOIT hardware and A-Studio version V5.1 software provide everything needed to connect a PLC to the Internet. The Microsoft .NET-compliant software runs under Windows XP and CE.NET, supports the newest OCX version of OLE controls, and allows OEMs and end users to create web-enabled SCADA and HMI systems for process control, automation and embedded controls. It includes an industrial touchscreen computer, and development software. Advantech; 877/294-8989; www.advantech.com/ia

HMI Complete 
QuickPanel Control and View visualization solutions combine touchscreen-based devices with Proficy Machine Edition software and a Microsoft Windows CE operating system. A built-in web server provides access to data, panels and logic via the Internet or intranet using any standard browser. The touchscreens are available with 6, 8 and 12 in. TFT color displays, Ethernet and fieldbus interfaces, and expandable memory and communication expansion cards. GE Fanuc;717/285-4400; www.gefanuc.com

PLC HMI Leaps Many Networks 
The NS operator interface can access information from PLCs three networks away from a single screen. Information can be accessed from an Ethernet network, the company's ControllerLink network, and up to two serial ports simultaneously. Its ladder monitor tool allows a PLC 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; 800/55-omron; www.info.omron.com

Can't Be Too Thin  
The Magelis Smart iPC thin client for Ethernet architectures measures 67-mm deep/high and can be bundled with Telemecanique Vijeo Look SCADA software to create an HMI. It also works with the company's Transparent Ready web-based display for real-time data visualization using a web browser, and FactoryCast applets for real-time data monitoring. The system conforms to UL508, CSA and CE, and is rated Class 1, Div. 2 for use in hazardous environments. Schneider Electric; 800/392-8781; www.us.schneider-electric.com

Screen Handles Abuse 
The 21-in. Model SV-2100 industrial-grade touchscreen LCD monitor withstands water, dust and dirt intrusion. The steel-enclosed NEMA 4/IP display runs resolutions up to UXGA 1600x1200 pixels with both analog and digital input sources with 250 nits of brightness and a contract ratio of 500:1. Monitors are available with resistive and surface acoustic wave (SAW) touchscreens. Stealth Computer; 905/264-9000x243; www.stealthcomputer.com

HMI Enhancements Speeds DAQ 
Enhancements in Version 1.91 of InteractX HMI include a boost in runtime performance, and more than 20 updates to communications drivers. Upgrades are free for current customers. Real-time data acquisition has been updated to automatically optimize the amount and efficiency of data being acquired from controllers. Runtime has been improved to update panels faster and require less CPU time. CTC Parker; 513/831-2340; www.ctcusa.com 

Hazardous Operator Interface Terminal
With a Class I, Div. 2 hazardous area rating, SCADAPackVision50 compact operator interface terminal can monitor process parameters in the field. It has a high-visibility LED backlit LCD display with 4 lines x 40 characters, 20 programmable function keys, up to 32 alarms and eight programmable LED indicators. Programming is via Windows-based software. The terminal provides prompts to change data and presets. Control Microsystems; 888/267-2232; www.controlmicrosystems.com

Fits in Well 
Blue Series graphic operator interface terminals have a 3-in. display and five user-programmable function keys that can be screen dependent. Measuring 5.8 x 3.8 in. with a depth of 1.6 in, it is well-suited for small systems such as packaging, bagging and filling machines where space is at a premium. Features include RS-232 and RS-485 ports, built-in clock, five user function keys that can be screen-dependent, numeric data entry, and the ability to display and import bitmaps such as lamps, panelmeters and bargraphs. Maple Systems; (425) 745-3229; www.maple-systems.com

HMI for Embedded Controllers 
E-ZView HMI for embedded controllers includes LCD Display, touchscreen, bezel, communications cable to an embedded controller, programming cable for E-ZView panel and free software (which is a complete development copy with no timed key, no registration, and no licensing costs associated). . InitPanel and UpdatePanel functions are available in a C/C++ type environment by using E-ZView's PanelDrv.lib library. AVG; 800/711-5109; www.e-zview.net [get image from 11/04 cd EXCLUSIVE]

OI Hits 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 bit-mapped graphical images. AutomationDirect; 800/633-0405; www.automationdirect.com

Control Panel With PLC 
The CP3xxT-Studio-IB Control Panel combines the functions of a PLC and an operator panel. Software includes Windows CE operating system, Entivity's Studio flowchart software, a common OPC tag database and PanelWorX software. Runtime versions of both software packages are pre-installed and pre-integrated. Models are available with 6, 10, or 12-in. screen sizes. All have bright TFT color touchscreens, built-in device-level master, and a 10/100BaseT Ethernet port. Phoenix Contact; 800/586-5525; www.phoenixcon.com

Scale Plugs In to Networks
Internet-enabled Jagxtreme weigh scale connects via TCP/IP and Ethernet to LANs, WANs and enterprise systems. It has a built-in web server that allows product configuration, diagnostics and maintenance from remote locations via the Internet. Setup changes can be made from anywhere using tools already on PC. The scale also connects to PCs and other local devices via ordinary common cables. It is available in pedestal, panel-mount and harsh environment models. Mettler Toledo; 614/438-4511; www.na.mt.com

HMI Masters 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; www.xycom.com

HMI and Controllers Match 
Scalable HMI options match a range of controllers using TwinCat software. For small systems, customers can use any Modbus, Modbus TCP, or serial-compliant HMI hardware. In the mid-range, customers can use any HMI hardware on the CE or XP embedded controller. An InduSoft CE runtime, which is programmed using InduSoft Web Studio is available, as well as .NET CE for HMI programming using Visual Studio, for the repeat high-end programmer who doesn't want to pay for tag counts and licenses. Beckhoff Automation; 952/890-0000; www.beckhoff.com

Text/Graphical Panel Reaches Out 
The G303 text/graphical panel has five serial-communication ports, which can be configured to communicate with most PLCs, motion controllers and PID controllers. It has a 10/100BaseT Ethernet port, which can be used for remote communication and web diagnostics. Configuration databases can downloaded via the RS-232 programming port or the USB port. An outdoor unit is available that features a sunlight-visible display and a UV-rated overlay. Red Lion; 717/767-6511; www.g3panels.com

High-Resolution Option 
The Exter series operator terminals are available in five models; three touch display models and two key operated models with display sizes of 6.5, 10.4 and 15.1 in. All displays are high-resolution TFT displays, with pixel resolutions of 640x480, 800x600 and 1024x768 for the large 15.1-in. touch display model. All operator terminals have IP65 front cover protection, are CE and UL marked and DNV tested. Beijer Electronics; 847/619 6068; www.beijerelectronics.com

Machines in Mind 
The Power Panel 100 product line designed for machine operation and monitoring is fully integrated into the company's automation system product range, and equipped with a 5.7-in. QVGA display (color or b/w) or a 10.4-in. VGA TFT display, and an analog resistive touchscreen. Power Panel 100 makes Ethernet available as a standard feature on compact operating units. B&R Industrial Automation; 770/772-0400; www.br-automation.com

Clear Viewing 
QTerm-Z60 Qlarity HMI terminals use touchscreen graphics include one switch-selectable serial port and can communicate via EIA-232, EIA-422 or EIA-485. The unit has a QVGA, 320x240 pixel, 256 color STN color LCD display, 2 MB flash 16 MB SDRAM; programmable speaker; and 5 VDC/200 mA output from the interface connector to power external devices like a Z-World single board computer. The unit has a NEMA-4, CE certified housing. QSI Corp.; 81/466-8792; www.qlarity.com

Survivor Computer 
RuggedTouch and RuggedTouch Plus industrial touchscreen displays and workstations survive harsh and hazardous environments, including high-pressure caustic washdowns. Both have a Intel Pentium III 1.2GHz processor, 30-GB hard drive, and 256MB of RAM. Options include 12, 15 and 18-in. LCDs, and bezels in stainless steel for NEMA 4X, and black powder-coated steel for NEMA 4 and NEMA 12. Dolch; 877/347-4929; www.dolchpr.com

Web Software Is a Drag  
HMI Builder provides a drag-and-drop environment that minimizes typing and drawing when developing HMI screens for use on the web. When graphical elements such as a tank or motor are dropped in the design window, they appear and function exactly as they will in the runtime environment. The HMI screens work over Internet and Ethernet networks, providing remote viewers with the same visual display as local screens. Control Technology; 508/497-0335; www.ctc-control.com

HMI Gets Personal 
The Operate Process Portal interface System 800xA provides personalized workplaces for maintenance technicians, production managers or plant operators. A single window environment can include data from smart field devices, asset optimization functions, information management, batch management, safety systems, and MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) applications. Each user's login defines the type and class of information required. ABB; 585/273-7246; www.us.abb.com

Panel Computer Handles Rough Environments
The Model ARP-2115 15-in. industrial panel computer has an aluminum panel with a heavy-duty steel chassis, resistive touchscreen or strengthened glass that protects the LCD panel from scratching, and no moving parts such as fans or disk drives. It comes with a low-power Eden 667MHz CPU, up to 512MB of system memory, a Compact Flash Card, two USB 1.1 ports, one RS-232/422/485 port, two RS-232 ports and one 10/100 Ethernet port. Arista; 510/226-1800; www.aristaipc.com