Flexibility, ease-of-use lead HMI/OI wish list

The latest products in our industry roundup of HMI software and hardware devices include upgraded GUIs, wireless keyboards and budget-friendly systems.

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By Rick  Pedraza, Digital Managing Editor

The industry analysts spend lots of time, print, and html code on the bright future of advanced web-based HMI systems. The ARC Advisory Group braintrust touts increased performance and productivity, Internet-based technology for distributed infrastructure, collaborative manufacturing architectures, wireless HMI products, and the integration of HMI software into integrated automation solutions as growth drivers.

Then there’s this little piece of advice for machine control professionals, as they consider the look and feel of their machines’ HMIs: “Every designer needs to understand that the interface determines the perceptions that operators will have about the machine,” submits S. Muthuramalingam, Frost & Sullivan’s industry manager. “Although there are designers who consider the HMI as a mere tool or prerequisite to make things work, many new technologies with significant benefits are set to make HMI the center of all monitoring and control operations.”

His fellow number crunchers at Frost peg this market segment’s revenue growth at 5.8% and expect it to reach $2.75 billion by 2011.

Meanwhile, back here in 2007, vendors push simpler visions (pun intended, perhaps) of better, clearer, more colorful displays, flexible programming and installation, better communication via Ethernet, easier configurability and customization, and affordability.

No doubt even-glitzier web-based HMI systems are on the horizon, but right now, products that get the job done simply and affordably are what most machine control folks want to know about.

Product Roundup:

HMI Software and Hardware Devices

Color Touchscreen
GT32 TFT 4096 color 5.5 in. (320x240 dots) touchscreen has a SD card slot (maximum 1 GB), Ethernet port and USB port for communications and updating/saving screen data. It also has a voice back feature built-in. A monochrome model with 5.7-in. panel also is offered. Panasonic Electric Works Corp. of America; 877/624-7872; www.pewa.panasonic.com/acsd

Keep It Clean
PHM flat-panel industrial monitors include a 15 in. and 17 in. TFT display with stainless steel option for the 15-in. model. All models have an analog-resistive touchscreen and standard serial output, with a standard connection to any PC through analog RGB, 15-pin DSUB input. An auto-power-sensing function automatically activates the unit when a video signal is detected, and shuts down when video isn’t present. Parker Automation-CTC; 513/831-2340; www.parker.com

HMI Migration Path
ioDisplay is an HMI application for designing and running operator interfaces on Windows-based clients. Users create graphical user interfaces with original or preset symbols, jpegs and bitmaps. It supports alarm and recipe handling, operator logging, real-time and historical trending, multi-media and unlimited tags. Opto 22; 800/321-opto; www.opto22.com

Improved Development and Maintenance
Steeplechase VLC 7.0 software includes Connection Tree and Connection Editor that simplifies device and I/O definition and maintenance. Backwards compatible with older versions of Steeplechase VLC Control Designer, Connection Tree lets users add and visualize defined interface cards, devices and I/O tags. Icons appear in different colors to let users know at a glance whether an interface or device has been configured. Phoenix Contact; 717/944-1300; www.phoenixcon.com

Touch-Panel Computer
TPC-1261H slim computer has an AMD GX3 LX800 500 MHz fanless processor and a 12.1-in. SGVA TFT LCD with resistive touchpanel. It includes CompactFlash with the option to add a 2.5-in. HDD for additional storage. TPC-1261H has up to 1 GB of RAM, one 10/100BaseT LAN port, PS/2 keyboard and mouse, one parallel port, four serial ports, one USB 1.1 port and supports Windows XP/CE.NET/XP Embedded. Advantech; 800/205-7940; www.eautomationpro.com/us

HMI With Extensions
CP69XX Economy control panels offer DVI/USB extension to allow devices to be installed up to 50 m away. The DVI/USB extension transfers graphics signals directly via a DVI cable (for image transfer) over a maximum distance of 50 m, while the USB signal for basic input devices is transferred to a CAT 5 cable to extend the 5 m USB limitation to 50 m. Beckhoff Automation; 952/890-2888; www.beckhoffautomation.com

Simple and Affordable
The 4.6-in. HG1F monochrome touchscreen can replace pushbuttons, indicators and meters. It has a 300x100 pixel resolution and 500 cd/m2 illumination for viewing in bright light. The HMI supports 16 monochrme shades and has adjustable contrast. Depth is 35.3 mm. IDEC; 800/262-4332; www.idec.com/usa

Tough In the Field
HR family of industrial touchscreens offers hardened resistive touchscreen technology for tough environments. A thin glass film is bonded to the front user surface to provide protection against surface wear, while the added layer of hardened backing offers protection from severe frontal impacts. All HR models are completely interchangeable with existing touchscreen models. Christensen Display Products; 425/222-3800; www.christensendisplay.com

Bright Colors
Silver Series Plus graphic operator interface terminals offer a bright color display, enhanced communications and extra features. Available in 8, 10, and 12-in. displays, the HMIs have USB ports, CompactFlash, Ethernet and connection to multiple PLCs using different drivers via serial ports and Ethernet port. Maple Systems; 425/745-3229; www.maplesystems.com

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