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.

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

Meet the Budget
C-More micro-graphic panels are available in touchscreen and non-touchscreen models. The 3.1-in. monochrome LCD has resolution of 128x64 pixels. With 768 KB memory, the panels support up to 999 screens, limited only by project memory usage. The HMI is equipped with LED backlights with five user-definable colors. AutomationDirect; 800/633-0405; www.automationdirect.com

On the Spot Info
Exter Pro+ operator terminals put electronic manuals at the fingertips of users with a PDF-viewer that stores documentation on a memory card inserted in the operator terminal before delivering the machine. Information is instantly accessible for the end user. Documentation can be published on a website, where it is accessed by the operator terminal. Beijer Electronics; 847/619-6068; www.beijerelectronics.com

Controller Programming Tool
Wago-I/O-System controllers have a Wago-I/O-Pro CAA programming tool that offers a built-in HMI screen editor. The editor allows the programmed controller data to be displayed on a standard PC or other operator interface hardware, allowing a user to create a control application and HMI using the same tag database. Wago; 800/din-rail; www.wago.us

World-Wide Standardization
ACP3000 series operator interface with multi-media and control for worldwide plant standardization includes screen sizes 6 to 15 in. and models in monochrome, STN and 65K color TFT displays. There are multi-port models supporting simultaneous protocol, multi-media with direct video and sound and HMI with control via built-in PLC logic. Xycom Automation; 734/944-482; www.xycom.com

Open Standards
More than 500 features have been added to V9 Genesis32 scalable suite of OPC, SNMP, web-enabled HMI and SCADA applications over the range of Microsoft Windows operating systems. With V9, users connect to core sources of data storage including IT infrastructures monitored by SNMP, plant-floor infrastructures communicating over OPC and enterprise databases through real-time, intelligent data mining. Iconics; 508/543-8600; www.iconics.com

GUI Builder
A GUI Builder combines with a software toolkit to act as a source-code generator that runs a touchscreen controller for various HMI applications. The GUI Builder codes the HMI and provides a what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) approach to creating menus by placing and grouping graphics and buttons on the controller’s display. The user can edit and test screen layouts directly on the target hardware. Mosaic Industries; 510/790-8222; www.mosaic-industries.com

Expandable Industrial Computers
VersaView industrial computers are designed for applications ranging from cleanroom environments to heavy industrial, automotive, food or mining applications. They feature a capacitance touschscreen, Class I, Div. 2 certification, Pentium 4 processors, continuous-duty, hard-disk drives and mission-critical solid-state drives. Rockwell Automation; 800/223-5343; www.ab.com/versaview.com

Migrate From Legacy Systems
Stingray HMI workstation uses a three-piece modular design for faster installation and easier upgrades. It consists of a CPU, power system and display unit that can be configured as a complete system. Components can be replaced or upgraded as needed. It has a 15-in. display with VGA input or a 15-in. display with attached 1.8 GHz Intel Pentium M processor. Kontron America; 510/438-7217; www.us.kontron.com

The Middle Child HMI
HMi family of analog touchscreens with programmable function buttons bridges the gap between iePro PanelMate for high-end applications and ELC graphics panels for basic machine monitoring. An expansion slot and serial ports provide connectivity to Ethernet or I/O modules, and communicate with more than 20 PLC brands. A 4-in. model comes in blue mode or gray scale, the 6-in. adds a color option, and the 8 and 10-in. units have TFT color screens. Eaton Electrical; 800/525-2000; www.eatonelectrical.com

Flexible Machine Mounting
Automation Panel 800 operator panel modularity enables the most ergonomically convenient mounting position on a machine. It has a 15-in. XGA touchscreen, individual expansions for function keys, electromechanical relays and E-stop functions. The panel is protected from sprayed water and meets IP65 protection. B&R Industrial Automation; 770/772-0400; www.br-automation.com

Light Up?
Illuminated and non-illuminated push buttons, selector switches and emergency stops provide safe interruption of circuits and long life. The 22-mm IEC line of unibody and modular pilot lights are UL-listed, rated Type 4/4X, and listed for Type 1, 2, 3, 3R, 12, 13 and IP65 applications. c3controls; 724/775-7926; www.c3controls.com

Custom HMI
Users can customize their HMI screens using process control and automation symbols in Web Studio HMI/SCADA software. To add a symbol to an HMI screen, designers can drag and drop the symbol onto the development palette, size the graphic and link it to a local database by assigning a tag or variable to it. InduSoft; 877/463-8763; www.indusoft

Matched Hardware and Software
QTerm-G70 touchscreen terminal has a 320x240 lighted graphic LCD, 100BaseT Ethernet with TCP/IP support, and an EIA-232/422/485 serial interface. NEMA4-rated and CE-certified, it uses Qlarity object-based graphic terminal programming language for simple control panel interfaces or a complete standalone application. QSI; 801/466-8770; www.qsicorp.com

Build It, Quick
QuickBuilder graphical development environment for Model 5300 controllers configures, programs, monitors, and troubleshoots applications. It has graphical flowcharting, QuickStep 4 to program logic steps in QuickStep state-based language, library manager, and resource manager for real-time information on all physical and logical controller resources. Control Technology Corp.; 508/435-9595; www.ctc-control.com

Third-Party Hearty Integration
iFix 4.0 automation software has an extendable architecture that handles PLC configuration and tags. 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/gefanuc; www.gefanuc.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

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 that allows users to save sets of parameters, then download them to one or more controllers. The program can back up/transfer settings between multiple controllers, and store an unlimited number of profiles on a PC. Watlow; 800/4-watlow; www.watlow.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 when space is at a premium. Siemens E&A; 770/751-4959; www.usa.siemens.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

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 32 or 64 I/O. Snap-in EZI/O module options include 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

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. Invensys; 714/757-6900; www.wonderware.com

Text/Graphical Panel Reaches Out
The G303 text/graphical panel has five serial-communication ports, which can communicate with most PLCs, motion controllers and PID controllers. It has a 10/100BaseT Ethernet port for remote communication and web diagnostics. Configuration databases can be downloaded via the RS-232 programming port or the USB port. Red Lion; 717/767-6511; www.g3panels.com

Something for Everyone
HMI models range from low-end to high-end units. The CTM-150 offers a basic 16-character text display, an industrial operator keypad and basic RS232 connectivity. The high-end LANpointXL offers full-screen color graphics with a touchscreen for inputs. It has wired or wireless Ethernet connectivity, along with standard serial communications and NEMA4 environmental specs. Intelligent Instrumentation; 800/685-9911; www.instrument.com

Into Bright Light
StealthVU SV-1700-HB LCD monitor operates in ambient light with resolutions to 1280x1024 pixels. The 17-in. monitor has a 1300-Nit brightness rating and meets NEMA 4/IP66 standards for indoor or outdoor use. Plug-and-play capability requires no video drivers or special interface cards. Optional touchscreens have resistive, capacitive, and surface acoustic wave technology. Stealth Computer; 888/stealth; www.stealthcomputer.com

Can’t Be Too Thin
The Magelis Smart iPC thin client for Ethernet architectures measures 67-mm deep 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. Schneider Electric; 800/392-8781; www.us.schneider-electric.com

Mobile Panel Protection
Simatic Mobile Panel 277 provides IP65 protection, rugged construction, an 8-in. TFT touchscreen with 65,536 colors, and 18 LED membrane keys.  For safety-related applications, a patented system automatically closes the emergency off circuit. Also, an integral connection point detection function assigns operator displays to specific plant locations. Siemens Energy & Automation; 800/964-4114; www.sea.siemens.com

Something For Everyone
HMI models range from low-end to high-end. The CTM-150 offers a basic 16-character text display, an industrial operator keypad and basic RS232 connectivity. The high-end LANpointXL offers full-screen color graphics with a touchscreen for inputs. It also offers wired or wireless Ethernet connectivity, along with standard serial communications and NEMA4 environmental specs. Intelligent Instrumentation; 800/685-9911; www.instrument.com

Three-step Configuration
Fx Series panel industrial computers use a three-step configuration. Users first choose the front-panel operator interface from different display sizes, bezels and touchscreen options. Second, users choose the industrial chassis required for the application. Third, users configure their system with various processor, operating system, memory and media storage options. Dynics-Ann Arbor Technologies; 734/677-6100; www.dynics.com

Programmable HMI Solution
8201iTM programmable HMI indicator/controller allows users to automate formula selection, batch startup, data recall or any frequently used process with the push of a button. PC-based software is standard. Using graphical flow charts eliminates complicated code generation. Rice Lake Weighing Systems; 715/234-9171; www.ricelake.com

No Bigger Than an Attache Case
Model FLP-200 portable computer has an Intel T2500 2 GHz Core Duo processor backed by a minimum of 512 MB of memory (expandable to 2 GB). Typical applications are testing, data logging and video recording for factory floor environments. ACME Portable Machines; 626/610-1888; www.acmeportable.com