This article discusses the benefits offered by the latest generation of human-machine interfaces (HMIs) thanks to technological developments that have enhanced ergonomics and usability.
Industrial automation improves production processes, making them faster and improving the quality of the product. Improvements in ergonomics and usability have an important role to play in industrial automation innovation.
Ergonomics and human-machine interfaces
In order to maintain high quality in the production, operators must feel comfortable at their workstation. An ergonomic design and easy movement of the human machine interface (HMI) are key factors for operational ease. Day after day, the operators will be working with the HMI. Because of this, screens now tend not to be installed firmly in a panel, but mounted on a movable arm that allows operators to adjust its position to their preference. Good ergonomics within the automation process system start right here, with the interface between human and machine.
Another point of increasing importance within machine design is that designers are replicating private environments and therefore seeking a slim and stylish HMI. In addition, protection to IP66 requires a design that will safeguard the internal electronics from dust and liquids, allows easy cleaning and delivers a highly reliable and easy-to-operate interface.
The use of products mounted in a VESA-compatible housing has the disadvantage of a deeper mechanical dimension and a more complicated installation. Last but not least, the necessity for an extra mounting component adds cost.
New Stationery Panel Computers (SPC)
Advantech has overcome the challenges and disadvantages outlined above by introducing the new SPC series of IP66 Stationery Panel Computers that combine the latest technology (high resolution, multi-touch features and a powerful CPU) with a system that is suitable for use in harsh environments. The new enclosure provides better thermal management, offering high levels of reliability within operating temperatures of between 0 and 55degC. The operator can now benefit from a slim product (only 65mm deep) with additional improvements in installation and maintenance (one piece to be attached to the arm).
Usability of human-machine interfaces
At the same time usability is becoming an important requirement within industrial design in the automation world. Machines operate faster and faster, making humans the bottleneck in the process. Graphic User Interfaces (GUIs) and software need to enable quicker operations. This leads to a more intuitive design. The result, called smart usability, reduces an operator's learning curve to a minimum.
A second major advantage of good usability is safety. Working in and with complex systems implies that every command must be reliable. In this environment, the operator can be asked to perform complex operations to change or make important settings. Thanks to multi-touch HMI designs, however, the security level can be met by using multi-touch gestures.
The latest Stationery Panels Computers from Advantech offer multi-touch capability, thereby combining ergonomics and usability in one single product. Panels are already available in two sizes:
- SPC-1840WP (18.5inch)
- SPC-2140WP (21.5inch)