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Which applications can benefit from an illuminated pushbutton or indicator?

March 25, 2019
13 industry experts share what can be utilized in lieu of a stacklight

In lieu of a stacklight, what types of applications can benefit from an illuminated pushbutton or indicator??

Danny Weiss, senior product manager, Newark element14:One indicating light can show machine run, ready or fault, as well as a really good example demonstrating a heating element coming up to temperature. As we all know, pushing a button is what workers do to tell the machine how to operate while indicating lights tell the worker what the machine is doing or failing to do.  To save space and money, you can combine pushbuttons with indicating lights, so that if you push the button a light inside the button turns on.
Alvaro Sanchez, product manager, Rockwell Automation: An illuminated pushbutton or indicator can benefit any application requiring visibility of real-time machine and process status indication. The type of technology used is based on the requirements of the application including user/operator proximity to the machine, the type and number of conditions that must be indicated and the environment, just to name a few.
Todd Mason Darnell, Ph.D., marketing manager of services and safety, Omron Automation Americas: Typically stacklights are used for plant personnel other than the operators of the machine. Illuminated pushbuttons should never replace stacklights, since only the operators can see the status of the pushbutton while the stacklight is easily observable by other plant personnel. Illuminated pushbuttons and indicators, however, can be helpful when there are multiple operators or to assist in troubleshooting. They can provide the status of a subsystem or alert other operators on large production equipment to problems. For example, if an e-stop is not actuated, it could be illuminated to assist an operator with locating it. Once pressed, all others could go dark, and the actuated button could flash so that maintenance personnel can easily locate it, remedy the problem and know which button to reset.
Tom Rosenberg, vice president of marketing and engineering, Balluff: This is all about process efficiency. Operators and other personnel need real-time information at the point of use. Attention must be focused on the task, not looking outside of the work envelope for guidance. This creates the need for machine-mounted indicators and pushbuttons. A central or even decentralized enclosure is not adequate. Indicators and pushbuttons need to be mounted within the machine, inside the work envelope, where guidance is required.
Trey Gantt, product manager, Eaton: Pilot devices are relied on to operate panels, pendant stations, control panels and other equipment. Machine and panel builders use these devices to simplify operation, control and protection. Like stacklights, these devices are used across a host of applications, including food and beverage, commercial construction, healthcare, industrial and utility, to name a few.
Robb Weidemann, senior business development manager, lighting and indication, Banner Engineering: While stacklights are effective to signal supervisors, even at a distance, lighted buttons and indicators are ideal at the operator level. These buttons can be mounted in the operator’s normal sightlines, which improves ergonomics and saves time by letting the operator keep eyes on the work. Assembly and machine-interface applications benefit from illuminated pushbuttons because two-way communication is enabled.

Carter Williams, product manager, Siemens: Pilot device opportunities are everywhere. Any application that requires a motor can use a pilot device to control the motor. Adding illumination to the pushbuttons or using indicator lights also provides a visual indicator that allows the operator to monitor the status of the motor/machine from the control panel. These devices are often used to show when a machine is powered on, running, off or overload tripped. Emergency-stop pushbuttons can be illuminated to give a visual indicator when the pushbutton has been actuated. This is particularly useful in locating the source of an emergency shutdown when there are multiple emergency stop pushbuttons on the same production line. The addition of Profinet, AS-Interface or IO-Link to a pushbutton provides digital feedback. For critical processes and applications, pushbuttons with communication offer visibility down to the lowest level when incorporated into the manufacturer's network.

Peter B. Gasparini, sales manager, Werma-USA: Manual workstations, self-checkout kiosks, forklifts, and escalation—for example, a Werma client escalates four times for one call for action from their manual workstations; every 5 minutes—three times—and, if after 20 minutes the problem is not resolved, the fourth-escalation automation turns on a 105 dB sounder outside the GM’s office. This was our client’s idea. Since deployment, I don’t believe the alarm has gone off.
John Curtin, director, automation solutions, Motion Industries: Stacklights are designed to alert people to a change in process status at a distance. Illuminated pushbuttons and indicators can serve a similar function but are best suited to applications where the system operator maintains close proximity to the location of these devices—typically on the door of a control panel, in the operator control console or on a remote operator station.
Lee Clore, owner/controls designer, Onyx Industries: Illuminated pushbuttons combine an action with a machine state. This is useful for a lot of hardwired machine functions. As an example, an illuminated master start button brings up a machine’s control circuit and illuminates green when the control circuit is operating normally. Once the control circuit is energized, stacklights commonly display state information such as ready to run, not initialized and so on. Combined with pilot lights and illuminated buttons, stacklights aid in bringing a machine up to operational state.

With safety circuits, an illuminated reset button is a good way to initialize manual resets of safety controls. Illuminated e-stop buttons provide a means of identifying which e-stops are activated when there are more than one on a machine. Stacklights augment the safety circuits by providing visual indication at a distance of e-stop and potentially reset state.

Lyon Lee, product marketing manager, IDEC: If 360° visibility is not required, certain applications can use LED indicators or illuminated buzzers in place of stacklights to save space and cost without compromising functionality. Also typically LED indicators or illuminated buzzers have higher IP ratings than stacklights’, making them more suitable for applications in challenging environments.
Steve Olson, IIoT technical specialist, Hilscher, member of Control System Integrators Association (CSIA): Pushbuttons are available that can be illuminated in different colors on the same button, depending on the condition of the process.
Jim Krebs, engineer, AutomationDirect: When an operator is next to a panel and pushing buttons to operate a machine, having illuminated buttons to show the machine is running or in another state is much more convenient than having to look around for a stacklight.

ALSO READ: Remove the Stack Lights

About the author: Mike Bacidore
About the Author

Mike Bacidore | Editor in Chief

Mike Bacidore is chief editor of Control Design and has been an integral part of the Endeavor Business Media editorial team since 2007. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning multiple regional and national awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at [email protected] 

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