Control Engineering HMI eNewsletter for February 2002

By Gary Mintchell June 3, 2002

In this issue:

  • HMI hardware trends
  • Servers
  • Labview upgrade, information integration
  • Ruggedized computers
  • Quality assurance tool
  • Cool products

HMI hardware trends

Dan Benson, vice president of Ann Arbor Technologies , stopped by last week to show some new products and talk about the state of the HMI market. Although much of the interest in how Microsoft Windows CE and NT Embedded work at the kernel level has died off, these operating systems are offering computer makers a chance to offer users a platform capable of wide variety of uses. A computer can be a thin client, full industrial PC, control platform, or operator interface panel. Just add the software you need for the application. He also pointed out hardware advances like thinner profile, built-in networking, and display technology. Contrary to popular belief, the hard drive is not necessarily a primary point of failure. Better drives and mounting have added life to the geezer. While there may be a reason to choose diskless computers using an embedded operating system, modern disk drives can serve well.

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We are collecting a lot of manufacturing information these days. Some of it may be piped up to an enterprise system, but I bet there’s still a tremendous amount of manufacturing disk space devoted to the SCADA system database. The question I’ve been asking users and suppliers is, ‘Are you now using rack mount servers, or do you plan to do so in the near future?’ If you do, who controls them? Do you have some in the engineering area? Or, are they under the control of IT? Does it matter?

I’ve written about how Stratus Computer has ported its fault-tolerant server technology to the ‘Wintel’ platform and reduced cost. Some are using Dell or Compaq servers. (Read more by visiting Control Engineering Online at )

So, what are you doing? What would you suggest to someone contemplating such a move? Let me know with an email to . I’ll report back in a future issue.

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Labview upgrade, information integration

Shawn Liu and Norma Dorst of National Instruments recently called to talk about the latest release of LabView — 6.1. LabView 6i incorporated web technologies into the control and HMI product, version 6.1 includes ‘remote panels,’ a feature that allows engineers to embed an application’s front panel into a web browser. Datalogging and supervisory control module enhances these activities. The release also includes a Real-Time Module that targets control to several NI hardware platforms.

They pointed out that one of the goals of ‘open’ automation was for the user to be able to use better components. Now, it seems that integration of various components is the biggest challenge. The goal in developing LabView 6.1 was to provide this integrating tool. While the product is known for control, it is now a more powerful HMI/SCADA product all in the same package.

Read more about LabView 6.1 by visiting Control Engineering Online at

Ruggedized computers

Looking for a Six-Pack? Well, actually, Dolch Computer Systems’ . SixPAC takes its rugged portable computer platform, FlexPAC, and adds six full-sized PCI or ISA expansion slots. The computer also sports either an Intel Pentium 4 running at 2 GHz or a Pentium III at 1 GHz. The Pentium 4 model supports up to 2 GB system memory, and video memory has been upgraded to 16 MB.

Read more by visiting Control Engineering Online at

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Quality assurance tool

ei3 Corp.’s SiteQ is a quality assurance (QA) service that provides an automated, centralized system to enter, maintain, and recall quality control documents for manufactured materials. Customers can more closely correlate off-machine quality expectations and results with on-machine production metrics and quality measurements. Accessible from a web browser, SiteQ provides a secure Internet or intranet connection to real-time QA information. The tool archives and stores quality testing information at ei3’s data center to ensure immediate and universal access to the information. It extends the value of QA information by making it accessible to the manufacturer’s executives, engineers, and production managers anywhere, at any time.

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Cool Products

When size matters, Red Lion’s Epax boasts 4-in. red LED display that’s visible up to 180-ft. The product uses plug-in input modules allowing it to display count, rate, voltage, current, time, or temperature. Communication blocks include RS-232, RS-485, Modbus, DeviceNet, and Profibus.

Exor International has two new industrial computers, Elin and Xlin. Elin features Intel Pentium 233 MHz MMX processor and flash drive in a unit that is 4.4-in. deep and NEMA 4/12. Xlin comes with an Intel Pentium III 800 MHz processor and either a hard drive or flash drive. Both models come with various display sizes and 10/100base-T Ethernet, serial, and parallel ports.

CyberResearch has packaged a 15-in. LCD monitor with swivel arm and touchscreen priced at $995.

Bently-Nevada has released a VGA display for its 3500 monitoring system. Data displayed includes System Event List, Alarm Event List, all module and channel data, current alarm data, and nine custom display options. It can be mounted up to 25 ft. from the rack. A display router box allows up to four 3500 racks to be viewed on a single screen.

Horner Advanced Products Group’s OCS300 series features color display with touchscreen and local I/O modules that can be mounted remotely, connected by plastic fiber optics. The unit contains dual processors, one for logic and one for display.

Z-World’s OP6800 MiniCom low-cost, C-programmable operator interface and single board computer offers Ethernet connectivity, I/O points, and graphic LCD/keypad. It meets NEMA 4 when front panel mounted.

Mettler-Toledo JagXtreme operator interface provides weighing information. Users construct screens with Microsoft Windows-based software using drop-in objects with user-definable properties.

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