Control Engineering HMI eNews for September 2002

By Gary Mintchell September 18, 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. Visit AutomationDirect for more information on the EZTouch panels.

  • Notes from IMTS, NI Week
  • Economy post 9/11
  • Learn all about FFTs
  • HMI floats in thin air
  • Open or ‘proprietary’ HMI
  • Brighter displays
  • Bigger monitors, smaller, rugged computers
  • Think productively

Notes from IMTS, NI Week

IMTS, the biennial manufacturing technology trade show and conference at Chicago’s McCormick Place, continued the tradition of filling all the halls with exhibits and people. Total registrations for the eight-day event brushed 90,000, and the two days I was there had good attendance.

Word from the CNC part of the control universe continued to be open — either open platforms or at least open communication. While there, I was able to talk with Dick Mathias, retired technical fellow at Boeing, and Jay Clark, president of Roy-G-Biv. That company makes open CNC and general motion control software. Dick is a leader of OMAC Users Group (open, modular architecture control). They were discussing progress of an open HMI interface standard. Jay’s company has an open technology HMI layer that sits atop many CNC control packages. A company with various machine tools in its shop could use this product to provide a common operator interface for the entire factory. This would reduce operator training and in many cases improve set up times and diagnostics.

Attendance was good at IMTS. National Instruments drew an almost record attendance at its annual NI Week users group. Control Engineering senior editor, Dave Harrold, told me that Invensys drew over 2,000 to its second Showcase in Orlando last week. Last year’s event was centered on Wonderware. This year it combined most of the Invensys process control divisions and included an Invensys Process (was Foxboro) users group meeting. Looks like a lot of you will travel if you feel you can learn something.

Visit National Instruments website at

Visit the IMTS website at

Economy post 9/11

No doubt the economic landscape was affected by the terrorist attacks last September, but economists and market watchers at Emory University say that there are other factors that contribute to the cloudy economic outlook. While some sectors did thrive, professors warn that the Bush Administration’s policies may not help the recovery picture. Knowledge@Emory Website provides a wealth of free information, but it does require registration. Check out sections on leadership and management, as well as economics.

Learn more at the Knowledge@Emory Website

Learn all about FFTs

I’m recommending another Prentice Hall book, but this time I actually bought it over the Web. Do you find requirements for vibration analysis or waveform signature analysis. There are plenty of products out there for FFT analysis, or it even pops up on your SETI@Home screen saver. But you wonder, just what is FFT and how do I use it? Check out The FFT: Fundamentals and Concepts by Robert W. Ramirez. The author steps through Fourier series analysis that transforms a wave from time domain to frequency domain. He then continues through the Fourier integral to Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) to the algorithms described as Fast Fourier Transform (FFT). These are called ‘fast’ because computers are used to do the calculations immensely faster than by hand.

For more information, visit Prentice Hall

HMI floats in thin air

Holographic technology is being introduced into sterile environments.

I wrote about HoloTouch, which has patented a holographic technology where the controls float in thin air, in an April newsletter.

The company has advanced the product to a point where it will introduce its technology into operating rooms and other sterile environments.

An operator, in this case a surgeon, uses the HMI by simply ‘touching’ 3D holographic images floating at a convenient location. The company is negotiating with several manufacturers to license the technology for other applications, such as factory floor HMI. This would be useful for clean-room applications and perhaps food processing where physical buttons may be subject to contamination. Perhaps it would be beneficial for machine set up or debug.

Get more information at

Read another article about the topic on Control Engineering Online

Open or ‘proprietary’ HMI

How do you specify or buy HMI? Do you like to procure everything from one vendor? Do you use a ‘three-layer’ approach of PLC-operator interface box-software? Are they from the same or different suppliers? Do you buy operator interface from your PLC manufacturer? Is this different for end-users and OEMs?

Paul Shelton, Siemens Energy & Automation open platform product manager, recently wrote to me, saying that he sees much more involvement of customer company IT personnel in large-scale specification meetings. Mr. Shelton feels that these IT people think is that HMI architecture should be open platform. Interestingly, even though companies say they want open platforms, this does not imply multiple suppliers. Often companies want to consolidate the number of suppliers, either to build better relationships or to wield a bigger club.

In a prophetic note, Mr. Shelton added that he thinks there will be industry consolidation in open industrial computing platforms with the major automation suppliers maintaining market shares. Within a month of his note, Control Engineering reported that Schneider Electric is attempting to purchase a stake leading to majority ownership of Digital Electronics (Osaka, Japan). Digital is the parent of Pro-face America and its marketing arm, Xycom Automation.

Read more on this topic at Control Engineering Online .

Or visit the company websites: Siemens at and Xycom at

What do you think? Let me know at

Brighter displays

Allen-Bradley PanelView 550 operator interface terminals have been enhanced with LED backlight technology, creating a blue-mode display to improve viewability in outdoor or bright ambient light environments.

Finding a display that is readable in bright light or outdoor environments has been a problem. Two new products address this situation.

Rockwell Automation has enhanced its compact Allen-Bradley PanelView 550 operator interface terminals with LED backlight technology, creating a blue-mode display to improve viewability in outdoor or bright ambient light environments. In addition, backlights are said to be three times longer lasting than its previous ones.

For more, visit Rockwell Automation .

Red Lion has introduced a sunlight-readable red display feature to its Pax line of panel meters. User-selectable intensity from 16 levels allows adjustment to that appropriate for the application.

For more, visit Red Lion .

Bigger monitors, smaller, rugged computers

2002 continues to be a year of product introductions. I am seeing many more new products this year than last. Industrial computers and monitors follow the commercial sector with larger displays and more powerful processors. Ruggedness is often an industrial must, and new products push this envelope as well.

Schneider Electric has introduced a family of industrial PCs, dubbed Magelis iPC, featuring CPUs from Intel Celeron 566 MHz to Pentium III at 850 MHz and displays from 12- to 15-in. with touchscreen. Communications feature fast Ethernet (100 Mbps), two USB, two serial ports, and up to six expansion slots. The company’s Viejo Look HMI software features OPC client/server technology and supports ADO, VBA, ActiveX, and Java Beans.

For more, visit Schneider Electric .

Ann Arbor Technologies has released webLink 17M, a 17-in. TFT touchscreen monitor for the factory floor priced at $2,295. Features include SXGA (1,280 x 1,024) resolution, auto-scaling from (640×480 to 1,280×1,024), NEMA 4 aluminum front panel, resistive touchscreen, and drivers for Microsoft Windows 98, NT, and 2000 and Linux.

Get more information from Ann Arbor Technologies .

Axiom Technology has announced Panel 1080-845, an 8.4-in. TFT industrial panel computer with resistive touchscreen support. It features an onboard 233 MHz National Semiconductor Geode GX1 processor with a CS5530 chipset and one 144-pin SODIMM socket for up to 128 MB SDRAM. The integrated CS5530 chipset supports CRT and LCD displays with a maximum of 4 MB shared memory and a maximum resolution of 800 x 600 pixels.

Learn more from Axiom Technology .

Dolch has unveiled a sealed and ruggedized, dust and dirt proof, indoor/outdoor portable computer dubbed MilPac.

For more information, visit Dolch .

AutomationDirect has augmented its monitor line with 17- and 18-in. industrial monitors for heavy industrial use and 15- and 18-in. versions for light industrial. FPM for heavy industrial and FLI for light industrial use are available with or without touchscreen.

For more, visit AutomationDirect .

Think productively

Free isn’t a bad price. Control Engineering is working with four participants to do two webcasts focused on manufacturing productivity. 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.

Read about Control Engineering’s webcasts

Learn more about the SupplyChainLinkExpo

Register for the event