Advantech is promoting its extensive portfolio of HMI (human-machine interface) products that are suitable for machine builders and system integrators who are either adopting Industry 4.0 or creating systems that are ready to take advantage of Industry 4.0 in the future.
Human-machine interfaces range widely in sophistication and cost, depending largely on how much interaction and information exchange is required between the human operator and the machine in question. Furthermore, because the HMI often doubles as a data collection and supervisory communications hub, these computation-intensive tasks must also be taken into account when selecting an HMI.
A relatively simple, unconnected machine may need only a few hardwired lights and pushbuttons. But, at the other end of the spectrum, a fully-functional industrially hardened PC may be required. In between these two extremes are a range of microprocessor-based operator panels or operator interface terminals (OITs) that provide a configurable graphical operator display and interface in a more compact, less expensive package than a typical industrial PC. In short, the need for increased application flexibility and the need to handle more complex information management tasks will typically drive the machine designer to more capable products.
As with other aspects of industrial automation, HMI display and input technologies have followed the arc of commercial computing technology, adapting the latest consumer advances to the unique demands of the industrial environment. The CRTs once widely used in HMIs have long since given way to flat-panel LCDs, and some of the latest HMIs even feature widescreen 16:9 aspect ratios and can be mounted in landscape or portrait orientations. Traditional 4:3 aspect ratio devices remain available, especially for those machine designers interesting in bringing legacy HMI applications forward onto new devices.
Touchscreens, too, are now ubiquitous in the HMI marketplace; some three-quarters of all machine HMIs now include one. Configurable keys, trackballs and sealed or protected keyboards have their place but, from an ergonomic standpoint, the touchscreen is very well suited to plant-floor environments: it has no moving parts, requires no additional space for a separate input device, and is readily accessible by a standing operator. Furthermore, even as costs have come down, advances in underlying technology enable capacitive devices to be calibrated for use even by gloved operators. More recently, touchscreen HMIs have even added the multi-touch capabilities popularised on smart phones and tablets to the industrial mix.
When it comes to deciding between an operator panel and an industrial PC, it is not just cost and computing power that differentiates the two. The first is configurable for performing a relatively fixed set of HMI functions, typically through a proprietary software package provided by the hardware manufacturer. The latter is programmable, bringing with it all the power and flexibility of a fully-functional 'Wintel' architecture PC. Industrial PCs used as HMIs can even double as controllers as well, communicating directly with I/O and effectively eliminating the need for a separate PLC. They can also integrate with plant-level networks and systems to accomplish a variety of other tasks, from facilitating remote troubleshooting to uploading production reports.
Advantech is now offering trusted and validated application-ready hardware/software bundles - open HMI bundles for acquiring and displaying on-time operation information in OT layer. These are said to be excellent for designing the HMI for applications involving PLCs, sensors and actuators.
According to Advantech, the complete portfolio makes more efficient use of time and cost than ever before:
- Cost efficient
- Time saving
- Widely integrated
- Easy to use
Bundled hardware and software offers the advantage of simplifying the work flow, with Advantech offering customers a worry-free process, from application to service, with competitive prices. Customers no longer have to worry about validation, software activation, logistics or technical support. The following are some of the most popular products from Advantech:
- Standard x86 Open HMI 21-inch panel, WA-HT2140W (pictured right)
- Lite RISC Open HMI 7-inch Panel, WA-HT3070T
- Visualised Box HMI and Gateway, WA-HU2483G
Additional product information is available at www.advantech.eu/products/atoz.