Control Engineering HMI eNewsletter for October 2002


AutomationDirect offers EZTouch PLC touch panels with a built-in Data Highway Plus (DH+) interface, or Ethernet option cards for use with certain EZTouch panels. Data Highway Plus versions of the EZTouch panels are available in color or monochrome 6-inch models, and 8 and 10-inch color regular or slim bezel models. EZTouch panels with the DH+ card pre-installed start at $1,159 for the 6-inch monochrome version. Also available is an optional high-speed Ethernet communication card, priced at $189, which enables an EZTouch panel to connect to an AutomationDirect PLC Ethernet network. Click here for more information on the EZTouch panels.



October in Control Engineering

Coming up in October Control Engineering , look for an article on adaptive control from CE's process control guru, Vance VanDoren. Senior editor Dick Johnson will discuss the state of the art in ultrasonic flowmeters, while executive editor Frank Bartos reveals the secrets of chip-based motion and motor control. Editor in chief Mark Hoske adds thoughts on using Internet technologies for process control-a companion piece to the February article on Internet in manufacturing. Look also for news editor Jim Montague's ISA show preview.

Mark your calendars for our conferences as part of Supply Chain Link Expo, an online conference and trade show October 16 and 17. See details below. We'll see you at the ISA show and conference October 21-24 at Chicago's McCormick Place. Check back to Control Engineering Online for coverage.

For more, visit the Control Engineering website.

Instant messaging and other reader feedback

I was just talking with a reader whose company has instant messaging (IM) and actually uses it. He hates it! Says that it is a tremendous time-waster. Someone sends an IM and, naturally, expects an 'instant' response. This continues for a while, like a conversation. He thinks a real conversation would be faster. He has a point. E-mail can be almost the same thing, only slower. I keep my e-mail application off-line most of the time and batch process messages at a time that fits my schedule. There are people who keep it live and onscreen all the time. The new message alert is constantly sounding. This is a perpetual distraction from 'real work.'

Another writer responded to what you would like to see from HMI/SCADA suppliers. He needs to average certain values from inputs on a regular basis and finds it difficult to do in his present software from a major supplier.

Do you have any annoying problems or work-around situations in your current software? Any driver problems? Coming up in December, I'll be writing a piece on current trends and technologies in HMI/SCADA software. Are any of you using some of the new technologies like XML and wireless handhelds, yet? What are your experiences?

Let me know at


More on object-oriented HMI

My September article, 'Component Automation Enables Modeling and Control,' focused on how software components are powerful tools for control programming. I also broached the subject of components and object-oriented programming for HMI/SCADA. Immediately after publication, I heard about software not mentioned in the article that leverages these tools. Click here to read it.

By the way, I cannot mention all the companies that provide products and services in an area that I discuss either in print or online. There are still many companies that offer solutions to your problems. Competition is alive and well in the automation industry. You can find them listed under convenient headings, often with links to Web sites, in our online Buyer's Guide .

On with the story. Control Systems International's UCOS (user-configurable open system) claims to be a complete control system product using component technology. It uses function block programming and acts like a DCS on a PC. However, it also talks to PLC I/O modules, therefore acting as a PLC, as well as a DCS. Its development software acts like a project manager as you develop your control project. Then, it also contains an HMI element tightly coupled to the control platform. Finally, it provides project documentation when you're done. It uses a construct called 'device objects' that have the properties of function blocks while incorporating tag definitions, faceplates, programming symbols, run-time graphics, and run-time dynamics.

You can find them at

CTC unveils new HMI software

InteractX is an HMI package for machine builder OEMs.

Editors hear the word 'revolutionary' more than a reporter in the Middle East these days. It's easy to become cynical, especially when you've used some of the products in the past. So, when CTC Parker Automation's Tim Root called to tell me he had a revolutionary HMI package for machine builder OEMs, the old 'hype filter' turned on. Then I saw InteractX for myself. While the term revolutionary may be a little strong, this product is a definite advance in HMI software.

The product incorporates the latest graphics technology to display elements clearly and with style. But, as software product manager, Jerry Koch, told CE editors recently, 'It's all about communication.' In other words, great graphics are useful, but they really want to help the field service technician. OEMs know that sending field service out to troubleshoot a machine is a potential money-losing proposition, but it is also essential to good customer relationships. CTC designed into InteractX a 'project management' function that can separate technicians from the hassles of the operating system on the machine and get them directly into the real problems. It allows saving project documents and pdf files to the target potentially saving OEMs significant expense.

For more, go to the CTC website .

News from National Instruments

Mathematica LInk for LabView lets engineers control a LabView application from within Mathematica or access Mathematica from within a LabView Virtual Instruement.

National Instruments (NI) and Wolfram Research have made available a link between Mathematica technical computing software and LabView developed by BetterView Consulting. Mathematica Link for LabView enables engineers to control a LabView application from within Mathematica or access Mathematica from within a LabView Virtual Instrument.

On the instrument front, NI and Tektronix have cooperated to allow LabView to be preinstalled on Tektronix digital oscilloscopes. Further, NI has released a 6.5-digit digital multimeter (DMM) in a single-slot, 3U PXI module. Along with the accuracy of this module, other features include 1.8 MS/s fully isolated digitizer mode, self-calibration, and offset compensated ohms measurement.

Visit the following company websites for more on this product:

Web-based HMI

J├╝rgen Bischhaus, managing director of Beijer Electronics in Germany, writes, 'As automated plant and machinery become more complicated, there is a growing possibility of mistakes in programming or operating systems. How do companies send out of the latest version of system software or upgrades as an automatic process? Also when customers require minor system modifications or alterations to meet new legislation how can machine manufacturers update equipment without going to site?'

Utilizing remote technologies offered by the Internet, an HMI is no longer confined to standalone connectivity or the limitations of a local or dedicated network, enabling remote operation and monitoring techniques. New applications with this technology include automatic software upgrades, remote maintenance, and asset management. A manufacturer whose equipment is using Internet enabled HMIs can connect onto their equipment, monitor usage, check firmware versions, and make programming adjustments, all remote from the actual application.

With an Internet-enabled HMI a remote user can an exact copy of what the operator sees. The copy, or real-time terminal reflection as it is commonly called, not only shows a picture of the HMI, but shows the real time manoeuvrable objects on the HMIs display. If the local operator changes anything on the local HMI (such as a value or changes screens) the remote reflection automatically updates and shows the remote user the new data.

Beijer Electronics, a Sweden-based company, offers HMI products under its Cimrex brand and also provides private labelled products for companies like Mitsubishi Electric Automation.

For more information, visit them at

HMI market to grow

According to ARC Advisor Group senior analyst, Dick Slansky, the human-machine interface (HMI) market, which totaled $414 million in 2001, will hit nearly $590 million in 2006, outperforming the industrial automation market.

He states, 'Significant contributing factors and emerging technologies will influence and contribute to growth in the HMI market. These factors include the adoption of Internet-based technology for distributed infrastructure, collaborative manufacturing architectures that will define the exchange of information from the embedded device level to enterprise tier applications, wireless HMI products, the incorporation of HMI software into integrated automation solutions, and the need for interoperability across all systems and applications.'

'Real-time information is required to power supply chain execution systems, quality assurance, maintenance, and scheduling activities,' he continues. 'We are seeing a significant shift from client-server architectures that were usually confined to controls, HMI, and supervisory domains, to the next generation of device-centric architecture that can provide much more accurate real-time snapshots of the production process. The next generation of HMI solutions will use embedded intelligence and Web Services.'

Will you be buying more HMI devices and software in the next few years than in the past? Will you be gathering data directly from devices to higher level software? Is Mr. Slansky accurate in your opinion? Let me know for a future news item at

For more information on the ARC website.

More hot products

Arista's i-RAID 3000

If we're going to be gathering much more data, then we'll need ways to store them. Arista Corp. has introduced 'i-RAID 3000,' a high-speed Integrated Drive Electronics (IDE) Redundant Array of Independent Disks (RAID) system.

Available in desktop, 2U, or 4U rack configurations, the product contains eight hot-swappable Hard Disk Drive (HDD) trays and hot-swappable redundant power supplies.

For more, go to

Cimplicity iCell from GE Fanuc Automation

Cimplicity iCell from GE Fanuc Automation manages multiple CNC machine tools from a central location. Supporting such operations as parts machining, data collection, remote diagnostics, and state-change monitoring, as well as enabling quick recovery in the event of a failure.

This Microsoft Windows-based software application can increase machining productivity by reducing downtime and optimizing equipment performance. Based on the Plant Edition HMI platform, the software allows users to modify and create PC screens and functions to meet application-specific needs.

For more, go to

In the category of displays readable in bright ambient light, Stealth has introduced StealthVU-HB LCD monitor. The 15' monitor has a brightness rating of 1,800 Nits, is NEMA 4/4X rated, and is available in various touch-screen configurations.

For more, go to

Think productivity; flipbook

A useful conference for free must be a good return for the money. Control Engineering is sponsoring two webcasts to show how automation tools boost productivity. Speakers include Tom Burke, OPC Foundation president and advisory software developer at Rockwell Automation, discussing how OPC boosts productivity.

Also, Jamie Bohan, business manager for Honeywell Industry Solutions, Kevin Roach, vp of Global Solutions Business at GE Fanuc, and Chris Colyer, group industry marketing manager for Microsoft, will discuss 'Everything you need to know on one screen: the digital dashboard.' GE Fanuc is sponsoring that panel.

Read about Control Engineering's webcasts

The events are part of the SupplyChainLinkExpo , a free two-day online conference and tradeshow from Reed Business Information taking place on your desktop Oct. 16 and 17. Other presentations will include speakers from IBM, Segway, Unilever, Microsoft, 3M, JC Penney, and Amana. Learn more about the Expo.

There's a 3D, multimedia Show Guide 'flipbook,' with information about the conference sessions, exhibitors, and excerpts from the four principal keynote sessions. The flipbook is also an interesting experience--when you click on the pages, they turn on screen. Find out how to 'flip' through the Show Guide now! View the flipbook.

And there are prizes, if that helps: Registrants are automatically entered for a chance to win one of three prizes: a Sony DVD player, an Xbox, and cash. Register now!

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