Operator Interfaces Show the 'Big Picture'

HMI Developments Focus on Making Information More Accessible

By Control Design Staff

A debate is brewing among economists and technologists about whether automation helps or hinders job creation, but there's little question about the kind of difference automation can make to a manufacturer's profitability. Getting the right interface tools into an operator's hands can have a significant impact on that equation.

"Look at how the operator impacts automation," notes Ian Nimmo, president and founder of User Centered Design Services. "Sometimes they cause the disturbance. It all depends on the operator's experience, and how he captures the big picture."

SEE ALSO: Operator Interface in Hazardous Areas

In large part, capturing the big picture comes down to how well the HMI is designed. At the Yokogawa Users Group Conference a few months ago, Nimmo suggested ways to improve HMI design, including better color schemes; easier navigation, letting operators see more on the first page; more trending information; and eliminated pages of alarms.

One way HMIs are made more accessible and relatable to operators is by bringing the technology found in consumer electronics into the industrial space. "The 'non-industrial' electronic devices that engineers interact with at home and in their office ultimately influence their expectations with HMI technology for machines," says Nathan Eisel, technical support manager for Beckhoff Automation. "Many of the major interactive technologies that arise in the future will also eventually make their way into HMIs for machines, manufacturing and processing."

More needs to be done to bring mainstream computing usability to HMI, "such as better support hardware and graphics that aren't like neon signs," says John Kowal, business development director at B&R Industrial Automation. "Some of these tools are already entering the marketplace, and they're allowing us to do some very interesting things. For instance, we have multi-touch HMIs that are supported by Windows 8 software, and they can do many iPad-like functions such as sweeping, which operators are going to expect."

Eisel contends that multi-touch technology is perhaps one of the most significant developments today in HMIs. "Familiar functions from the world of smartphones and touchpads — such as zooming, scrolling, object turning, flicks, etc. — are now usable for industrial applications with these industrialized multi-touch panels," he says. "This opens up new possibilities for creative HMI designs that increase machine functionality while enhancing operator training and comfort."

Many Features   
GT16 Series HMI offers remote access, multi-language text and graphic support, alarm management with conditional sequencing for use with multimedia files, front-mounted USB port, and embedded diagnostics and maintenance functions. The terminals come in six sizes 5.7–15 in. Additional capabilities include flexible recipe management, data logging, and a range of drivers to support connectivity to most automation vendors.
Mitsubishi Electric Automation
(847) 478-2100
Integrated HMI   
XV Series HMI incorporates PLC functionality and integrates directly with the SmartWire-DT system to enable remote intelligence, eliminate an entire device level and make complex wiring unnecessary. With a 400 MHz RISC processor and custom-developed software drivers, the XV Series employs IEC 61131-3 compliant xSoft-CoDeSys-2 programming software for visualization, logic and end devices in a single software package.
(800) 386-1911
Speaks Factory   
FactoryTalk View Machine Edition (ME) 7.0 offers more efficient alarm management, simplified installation, and integrated data sharing. PanelView Plus 6 operator stations can connect directly to and display data from non-controller devices such as smart overload relays or power monitors, saving controller memory. The software delivers new ActiveX controls and runtime capabilities to view diagnostic information such as temperature, load, battery voltage and network IP settings directly on a display.
Rockwell Automation
(414) 382-2000
Full Graphics   
GP4000M Series HMI with 3.5 and 5.7 in. LED-backlit LCDs has full graphics, a TFT touchscreen interface with serial or Ethernet connectivity. The operator interface is installed using a 22 mm thread through a common hole size used for pilot lights or pushbuttons. These models are programmed with Pro-face GP-Pro EX development software.
Pro-face America
(800) 289-9266
Use Your Fingers   
CP2xxx and CP3xxx Control Panel and Panel PC Series in aluminum and stainless steel have widescreens in various sizes in addition to 4:3 format. The panels use Projective Capacitive Touch (PCT) technology and front of the display is a glass pane with an anti-reflection coating; operation with work gloves (e.g. latex gloves) is possible, as are five-finger touch and automation solutions with two-hand operation.
Beckhoff Automation
(952) 890-0000
Get Organized   
Automation Studio 4 has true-to-life architecture modeling, version control, support for shared projects and object-oriented programming. Modularization allows individual projects to be split up into pieces so several developers can work on them at the same time. It has an interface to Eplan Electric P8, which allows ECAD projects and the hardware configuration in Automation Studio to be synchronized.
B&R Industrial Automation
(952)) 890-0000
Resistance Is Certain   
Magelis GTO stainless HMI panels have six 65K color TFT screens, LED backlighting, and function keys for the 3.5 and 7 in. versions. They operate to 55 °C, and resist corrosion, high-pressure cleaning, chemicals and grease.
Schneider Electric
(800) 788-1704
Tough Touch   
Series 4020 all-weather, portable PC has a NEMA 4X aluminum enclosure with UV-tolerant paint finish, is Class I, Div. 2 (approval pending), Zone 2 NI, EExnA IIC T4, EXII36, and complies with ATEX 94/9/EC. It has an active-matrix, LED-backlit, 15 in. LCD with shatterproof pressure-sensitive touchscreen, 1.3 GHz Intel Atom processor, solid-state storage, and a variety of I/O ports.
Daisy Data Displays
(717) 932-9999
Connect With Others   
C-more industrial touchscreens can replace almost all mechanical pushbuttons, switches, meters and other peripheral devices. Configuration software provides tools for developing simple or very complex applications. The units provide easy connectivity to Direct Logic PLCs and certain A-B, GE, Mitsubishi, Omron or Modicon PLCs, and can act as an interpreter or protocol bridge, passing PLC tag values between separate PLC protocols.
(770) 889-2858
Organized Automation   
Automation Organizer (AO) software suite combines WindLDR (PLC) and WindO/I-NV2 (OI touchscreen) software with WindCFG (system configuration) software. It includes Emerson’s ROC Protocol and a video recording function. Touchscreen sizes are 8.4, 10.4 and 12.1 in.
(800) 262-4332
Junior Has the Touch   
EZTouchPLC Jr. TFT touch panel with a built-in PLC and I/O, has an operating range of 32–131 °F. Models include eight dc inputs and six dc outputs; eight dc inputs and six dc outputs, four analog in, four analog out (voltage) with 12-bit resolution; 16 dc inputs and eight dc outputs; or 16 dc inputs, eight dc outputs, two analog in, two analog out (voltage or current) with 12-bit resolution.
AVG EZAutomation
(877) 774-3279
Open Windows   
OMI5070A-CE Open HMIs include Windows CE 6.0, a 600 MHz processor and 256 MB of memory. The 16.7M true-color 7 in. display supports 800x480 pixels and 500 nits brightness, and has an LED backlight. It has serial ports, Ethernet port and USB. Built-in real-time clock, audio port and SD card slot are hardware options.
Maple Systems
(425) 745-3229
More Remote Access   
Web Studio v.7.1 offers interface capabilities with smartphones and tablets, and revision control and intuitive project management. Studio Mobile Access (SMA) client works with any HTML5 web browser to display alarms, trend and critical tag values. More than 240 built-in drivers allow plug-and-play, two-way communication with most PLCs, temperature controllers, motion controllers and barcode/2D/RFID readers.
(512) 349-0334
Get Comfy   
Simatic HMI Comfort Panels add 15, 19 and 22 in. color touchscreen sizes, have dimmable LED background lighting, include Profinet and Profibus interfaces, and connect to a USB periphery. The 15 in. format is available with a key operation. The touch devices can also be installed vertically for applications in restricted spaces.
Siemens Industry
(800) 964-4114
Magic HMI   
Panel Magic 21.5 in. widescreen LCD is sealed against the elements when panel-mounted, with NEMA 4X stainless steel bezel. It includes 1920x1080 resolution, optional resistive touchscreen, and integrated or removable computer. Six LCD sizes range 12–42 in.
(508) 359-8161 x145
No Fan Needed   
VisuNet Industrial 900 Operator Workstations in 15, 19 and 22 in. versions for Ex-areas are encased in a Type 4/4X stainless steel or painted steel housing with continuously welded and ground smooth seams. Enclosure design mitigates heat without venting or cooling fans. They have an Intel Atom or Core 2 Duo processor with Windows 7 32-bit OS and are available in glove-friendly touchscreen and transflective models.
(330) 486-0002
Safe View   
Status display touchscreen for G9SP programmable safety controllers displays safety I/O error codes and the status of safety inputs and outputs without installing and wiring indicator lights. Users are able to reset up to four zones directly from the touchscreen.
Omron Automation and Safety
(800) 479-3658
N Sync With Data   
SQL Sync in Crimson 3.0 programming software lets users synchronize logged data from G3 HMIs directly with a Microsoft SQL Server with no third-party software or custom script. With dual Ethernet ports, an engineer can assign a fixed IP address to the port connected to the PLCs, drives, etc., and IT personnel can choose their own IP address or select DHCP to configure the enterprise port.
Red Lion Controls
(717) 767-6511
WideScreen Web   
WebOP-2000T industrial operator panels with 4.3–10.1 in. widescreen displays accommodate many brands of PLCs with more than 300 available drivers. The NEMA4/IP66 panels feature 128 MB onboard flash memory and microSD card slot for additional applications. WebOP Designer, an object-orientated programming application, is included.
Advantech Industrial Automation
(800) 205-7940
Still in Touch   
Open and extensible InTouch 2012 HMI software lets users create standardized, reusable HMI and real-time decision support applications that shorten project times. Improvements include strengthened security, simplified installation and license management, support for the latest remote desktop services, and virtualization technologies from Microsoft.
(800) 966-3371
Widescreen Viewing   
PowerView 8000 Series HMIs have 7 and 10 in. wide-screen TFT LCDs with LED backlights and 800x480 resolution, and come with EasyBuilder configuration software with object libraries, historical and real-time trending, alarm and recipe management, Windows multi-language text display, and support for more than 175 drivers on 79 different PLC brands.
(800) nematron
Keypad HMI   
AKI Series keypad HMI panels are available in 5.7 and 10.4 in. screen sizes, with LED status indicators to give users confidence that inputs are correct. The panels are programmed using Visualization Builder software, and keypad and touchscreen HMI panels are available with a variety of templates for common process screens, as well as drive operations and configurations.
(540) 633-3545
Take the HMI Challenge   
22 in. widescreen Challenger HMI provides intrinsically safe data transmission in hazardous areas 1/2 and 21/22, with an IP66 rating, screen resolution of 1680x1050 pixels, and an aspect ratio of 16:10.
MTL Instruments
Lots of Links   
Infilink-HMI Version 5 industrial automation software for Windows 7 and XP is for small to medium-sized PLC applications and includes a design mode for drag-and-drop application design and OPC Server with communication driver. It has a graphical library to import drawing tools, buttons and animations; historical and real-time trending; a datalogger; and customizable alarms.
Kessler-Ellis Products
(800) 631-2165
He Keys to Input   
ITMKB-64A-TP-BLS keyboards have 65 laser-etched keys individually lit by LEDs, and an integral touchpad. Temperature-resistant polycarbonate keys and brushed stainless steel front panels are supported on an aluminum alloy backplate. They have PS/2 or USB interfaces, and are CE-compliant.