During a few recent vendor visits I've seen more examples of automation suppliers promoting aesthetics of design in what I'd consider non-customary places, and the use of contemporary social media-influenced interfaces.
For example, Beckhoff Automation's Pack Expo booth showed off a very elegant looking Windows 7-based panel PC in a machined aluminum housing and featuring a multi-finger touchscreen like those popular with smartphones, tablets and their ilk. This feels far more like playing with a tablet at home, then controlling or monitoring machinery. While it wasn't front-and-center in the product pecking order, the Beckhoff folks made a point to show it off.
During a Harting media event last month, the company, which is well-known for its cable-to-cable interconnection of data, signal and power applications in one "plug," made a point to highlight its Han-Yellock connector, that keeps the core functionality of the rugged, industrial looking product line, but offers further enhancements to the connection process....and it's really handsome-looking, with a rounded, die -cast, black epoxy powder-coated housing and a bright yellow button that unlatches the housing sort like a seatbelt.
I thought this aesthetic might make some sense for cabling installations in high visibility commerical or residential buildings, and in some image-conscious company headquarters, but not in anything resembling a typical factory floor. The Harting product manager was adamant about its growing use in industrial venues and that machine users and their customers absolutely want to place more emphasis on this, as an aesthetic and perhaps as a signal that their own products carry that cache.
I could use some feedback about where this lands on your to-do lists.
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