The Future of Human-Machine Interfaces Is Now: Page 2 of 2

enter the workforce. Younger people are accustomed to multi-touch including pinch to zoom features, and interacting with interfaces in a different way than what has been available with traditional industrial interface design.

There is an evolution in HMI interface hardware but the demands of the factory are limiting changes to the physical hardware at the machine itself. Safety and reliability of the hardware are key concerns, and consumer products are designed for a different purpose.

Kromenaker said one trend is customers asking for larger screen sizes. Typically, he said, Omron HMIs start at 3 inches for a low-end version, and go up to 15 inches. Now there are requests for 21- to 25-inch displays, which is an interesting trend as the HMI becomes a central focus of machine visualization. Design engineers have also been interested in transferring alarm or status display screens, for example, to large 70-inch monitors that might be above the factory floor for carrying messages to a larger audience.

Control & Visualization Options

New device options that illustrate the direction of HMIs include new C panels from B&R, which are available in portrait, landscape, and widescreen formats. The panels offer bezel color choices, and include a built-in PLC processor for control. An auxiliary T panel uses the main controller's IP address to display information. One option is to use a PLC with no screen and send visualization information to the auxiliary panel, or have a C panel on the machine and one or more auxiliary panels further down the line for viewing information, as well.

For high-performance applications, users commonly select a standalone industrial PC for control. But the integrated controller/panel offers an effective solution for less demanding needs for machine and motion control using the Powerlink network.

"We offer custom Mylar overlays that can be ordered in low quantity, and allow our customers to provide their own design. For automation panels that come in larger sizes, offering single and multi-touch displays, users have the ability to add stop-start buttons, a keypad, or an E-stop to be built into the panel," Vacendak said.

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