Parker Automation-CTC to launch Windows HMI

By Control Engineering Staff September 25, 2002

Milford, OH- To ease system requirements, complexity and cost, Parker Automaton-CTC ing OEMs to use expensive platforms or IT services.

‘Windows capabilities make machine controls easier to use and integrate, but they’ve been anything but easy on OEMs,’ says Jerry Koch, CTC’s product manager. ‘OEMs have been reluctant to commit to the Windows HMI environment. They’ve seen Windows adding complexity and cost, forcing them to use less reliable hardware platforms, as well as higher-level programming and IT services. Instead, we set out to give InteractX the most advanced graphics of any Windows HMI, but at the lowest installed cost and least development complexity for OEMs.’

InteractX will run on Windows 98/2000/NT/XP and Embedded NT/XP operating systems. The two embedded operating system options will provide full Windows functionality with a smaller software footprint that can run on larger-capacity Compact Flash disks.

“Now you can run true Windows applications without rotating storage media that reduces system reliability in the rigors of production,” adds Mr. Koch. “We’ve designed our Windows HMI software for affordable platforms that address machine builders’ functional requirements, without having to deal with system features they don’t need.”

CTC plans to lower application costs by providing unlimited tags, which it reports can save up to $1,000 and more on many installations. This compares with the practice of providing limited tags for a basic Windows application, and assessing hidden costs for additional tags, adds Mr. Koch. In some cases, the incremental costs for tags and communications drivers can approach the original cost for the software, he says.

InteractX also includes more than 45 standard communication drivers and an OLE for Process Control (OPC) interface. ‘We don’t think you should charge for drivers and extra tags,’ says Mr.Koch. ‘We think these should be part of the standard product, part of the application essentials. We wanted to provide the full functionality needed to create an HMI application-one software package scalable to a range of runtime systems.

“InteractX gives OEMs a Windows-embedded HMI solution designed around their current staffing and practices. CTC gave special attention to simplifying the HMI development process and keeping it familiar for OEM personnel. InteractX’s object-based development interface uses tool bins and icons, like those in office software, to make it easy to move from one function to another without disruptive dialog messages. We created InteractX using a unique development process. We developed ‘user stories’ that identified each person involved in developing, installing and operating the machine control, and then looked to simplify the application at each level.’

In addition, InteractX includes an OEM-friendly “Pack and Load” feature that simplifies project management, making it easy to deploy HMI applications to a CTC PowerStation or Industrial PC, according to Mr. Koch. ‘The OEM can package multiple Windows applications for simple download and installation to runtime hardware in the factory or remotely in the field. Our tools are set up so that field service people can use them. You don’t need an IT specialist for lengthy file copying, complicated transfers and the manual installs typical with Windows systems,’ he says. ‘Our goal was to make application downloading as easy as for a PLC.’

Also, CTC reports that its software developers gave InteractX advanced and powerful graphics using vector-based, scaleable 3-D rendering. “We’ve applied the latest graphic rendering technology to HMI, while greatly simplifying the graphics development environment,” adds Mr. Koch. “With InteractX, OEMs can not only meet market demand, but gain a competitive advantage. The graphics let OEMs give a machine’s operator interface a high-tech feel and functionality. The image quality allows graphics to be scaled to larger screen sizes and still look great, while file sizes remain small.’

CTC says it also made the graphics easy for machine builders to apply and customize. ‘It’s basically a drag and drop process that’s is very similar to using PowerPoint,’ says Mr. Koch. ‘We think OEMs can gain a real selling advantage from this. It’s easy to customize screen templates with the customer’s corporate colors, logos or special graphics.’

InteractX’s open architecture also allows machine builders and users to integrate other development tools and resources, such as integrated Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), OPC communication drivers and ActiveX controls.

Control Engineering Daily News DeskJim Montague, news