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What is Industrial HMI & How does it Work?

Updated: Jan 7

Close-up of an operator using an industrial Human Machine Interface (HMI) touchscreen panel. The panel displays a graphical interface for machinery control, with a hand touching the screen to navigate. Next to the screen are emergency stop buttons, power, and reset controls, indicating the functionality and safety features integrated into the industrial system.

What is Industrial HMI (Human Machine Interface)?

Industrial HMI, or Human Machine Interface, is a crucial device in the industrial manufacturing and automation environment. It enables operators to control machinery using visual representations. While desktop computers have been common for HMI systems, offering easy control via mouse and keyboard, they fall short in industrial settings. These environments require more durable solutions like industrial HMI displays and touch panels, which can withstand dust, debris, and temperature variations. An industrial HMI can either be an all-in-one panel PC or a combination of a standalone computer and a separate touchscreen display, tailored to specific installation needs.

Industry Challenges

The IoT implementation in manufacturing is expanding. However, several challenges persist, from technical issues to the need for better integration with legacy systems and education on IoT best practices. The growth of IIoT will be propelled by advancements in edge computing, deep learning, and providing open access to developers. In this context, industrial touch screens and interactive screens play a pivotal role.

Rigors of factory floor operations

Data processors on the factory floor, equipped with industrial HMI panels, must function in varying conditions such as dust, water, and humidity.

High hygienic requirements of specific industries

Certain industries demand high hygiene standards, necessitating regular cleaning of devices like touch panels and factory floors with chemicals or high-temperature water.

User-friendly intuitive interface

It's essential for industrial touch screens and rugged mobile computers to have a simple, user-friendly interface for operators.

Wide power input

The need for devices supporting DC power input arises due to unstable power conditions on the factory floor.

The need for wireless computing solutions

Implementing wireless solutions helps neatly connect devices, reducing entanglement and workplace accidents.

Rugged yet stylish design

Our rugged IT solutions, designed to withstand harsh conditions, are tested to military standards for drop, shock, and vibration resistance, and are IP65 rated for water and dust protection, making them ideal for industrial settings.

User Scenario

Various industries leverage HMI technology, including Energy, Food and Beverage, Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Power, Recycling, Transportation, Water and Wastewater, among others. These sectors benefit significantly from the integration of HMI displays and interactive screens in their operations.

Types of Industrial Touchscreens

Projected Capacitive touch panels represent a significant advancement in touchscreen technology, commonly used in personal devices like smartphones and tablets. These panels are celebrated for their exceptional precision and swift response times, making them highly responsive to touch. Their multi-touch functionality allows users to perform a variety of gestures, such as pinching and swiping, which are now standard in modern interfaces. While predominantly used in small, compact devices due to their electrical-based touch detection system, scaling these touch panels up for larger applications, such as industrial HMI displays, poses a challenge. Nonetheless, their potential in industrial settings is immense, offering a level of interaction and user experience previously unattainable with older technologies.

Resistive touch panels are one of the most cost-effective solutions in the touchscreen market. They operate by detecting pressure applied to the screen, which makes them uniquely versatile, as they can be activated with anything from a stylus to a gloved finger. This single-point touch technology is particularly useful in environments such as grocery stores and ATMs, where simple, straightforward interactions are required. Although these HMI panels may not offer the advanced features of their more sophisticated counterparts, such as multi-touch capabilities, their durability and functionality in challenging conditions like water exposure make them a reliable choice for many industrial touch screen applications. The resistive touch technology is an excellent example of how established methods continue to serve essential roles in various industries.

Infrared touch panels operate by setting up an invisible grid of infrared beams across the panel's surface. When a user's finger or a stylus interrupts one or more of these beams, the touch is registered. These panels are capable of supporting multi-touch functionality, making them suitable for applications that require complex gestures and inputs. However, they have a notable limitation in environments with direct sunlight, where the infrared beams can be disrupted, causing inaccuracies in touch detection. This necessitates careful consideration of the installation environment for these interactive screens. Despite this limitation, the durability and size scalability of infrared touch technology, supporting screens up to 150 inches, make it a popular choice for a wide range of applications, including interactive kiosks and large-scale industrial HMI systems.

Optical imaging touch panels are at the forefront of touchscreen innovation, offering unparalleled versatility and user interaction. These panels use a combination of infrared cameras and light-disrupting sensors to detect touch inputs. This technology allows for a high degree of accuracy and can recognize multiple touch points simultaneously, providing a rich multi-touch experience. With the ability to accept inputs from various objects, including gloved hands, these panels are incredibly adaptable. While their size and complexity can limit their application in compact devices, they are ideal for interactive applications like whiteboards and large-scale displays. The inclusion of optical imaging technology in industrial HMIs marks a significant step forward in the evolution of user interfaces, offering more dynamic and interactive experiences in industrial settings.

Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW) touchscreens represent a unique approach to touch technology. By utilizing ultrasonic sound waves emitted along the edges of the screen, these touchscreens detect touch commands with high precision. When a user touches the screen, they interrupt the sound waves, and this disturbance is registered as a touch command. This method allows for high sensitivity and accurate touch detection. SAW touchscreens are notable for their clear image quality and durability, making them suitable for a variety of applications, including public information displays and interactive kiosks. While they may not be as widely used as other technologies, their unique approach adds valuable diversity to the range of available industrial touch screens and HMI displays.

Guide to Cleaning & Disinfecting Touch Screens

Proper maintenance of touch screens, especially in industrial settings, is crucial for both functionality and hygiene.

Cleaning Touch Screens

Cleaning involves physically removing contaminants like dirt, germs, and impurities from surfaces, such as HMI panels and industrial touch screens. This step is vital in any cleaning process as it reduces the number of germs and lowers the risk of infection spread. For rugged LCD monitors and touchscreen solutions used in various environments - from POS systems to healthcare facilities - regular cleaning ensures both operational efficiency and hygiene. While cleaning doesn't kill germs outright, it significantly reduces their presence, making subsequent disinfection more effective.

Disinfecting Touch Screens

Disinfecting goes a step further by using chemicals, such as EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process is crucial for touchscreens in high-use areas like hospitals, industrial factories, and food processing plants. Disinfection doesn't necessarily clean dirty surfaces, but it's effective in killing germs and viruses, thereby further reducing the risk of infection spread. For interactive screens and industrial HMIs, which are often used by multiple individuals, this step is critical in maintaining a safe and sanitary environment.

What is the Difference Between HMI and SCADA?

In the realm of industrial automation and control systems, understanding the distinction between HMI and SCADA is essential.

Role of HMI in Industrial Settings

HMI, or Human Machine Interface, is primarily focused on visually presenting information to facilitate user supervision of industrial processes. It serves as an interactive interface, allowing operators to control and monitor complex machinery and processes. HMIs, especially in the form of industrial touch screens and touch panels, are integral in providing a user-friendly and intuitive interface for complex systems.

Functionality of SCADA

SCADA, or Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, offers broader capabilities than HMI. While HMI is limited to display and interaction, SCADA encompasses a wider range of functionalities, including extensive data collection, process automation, and system control. SCADA systems can gather and analyze data, connect to various databases, and provide a comprehensive overview of an entire industrial process, making them indispensable for large-scale operations.

Together, HMI and SCADA create a cohesive system that enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of industrial control systems. The HMI display works as the front-end interface for user interaction, while the SCADA system operates as the backbone, managing data and control operations.

Developing Trends in HMI Technology

The landscape of HMI (Human Machine Interface) technology has seen significant evolution over the past decade, driven by changing operational and business needs. This shift has led to the emergence of advanced forms of HMI, blending high-performance models with touch screens and mobile devices, while still incorporating traditional elements. These developments are paving the way for more dynamic equipment interaction and comprehensive analysis.

High-Performance HMIs

The trend towards high-performance HMI is reshaping how operators interact with systems. This design philosophy emphasizes efficiency and clarity, focusing on displaying only the most critical indicators. By eliminating unnecessary graphics and controls, these HMI displays and panels allow users to quickly identify and respond to issues, leading to more informed decision-making. The use of minimalistic design elements, such as simplified color schemes and strategic indicator placement, enhances the overall user experience, making these industrial HMIs more intuitive and effective.

Touch Screens and Mobile Devices

With the advent of smartphones, touch screens and mobile devices have become integral to modern HMI design. Traditional buttons and switches are being replaced by interactive touch panels and screens, enabling more direct and intuitive control. Mobile HMIs, accessible via web-based platforms or dedicated applications, offer numerous benefits, including instant access to system information and the ability for remote monitoring. This shift has significantly impacted the functionality and flexibility of industrial touch screens, making them more adaptable to various operational environments.

Remote Monitoring

The capability for mobile-friendly remote monitoring is revolutionizing how industrial processes are managed. This technology allows offsite engineers to monitor and control systems remotely, providing significant operational flexibility. For instance, verifying environmental conditions in a facility from a distance is now a reality, reducing the need for continuous onsite supervision. This feature of interactive screens and HMI panels is becoming increasingly commonplace, reflecting the growing emphasis on remote accessibility in industrial operations.

Edge-of-Network and Cloud HMIs

Edge-of-network HMIs are gaining popularity for their ability to provide immediate data and visualization from field devices. Moreover, the trend of integrating local HMI data with cloud technology is on the rise. This approach enables remote data analysis while maintaining local control capabilities, offering a balance between on-site management and cloud-based efficiency. The integration of cloud technology with industrial HMIs is a significant step towards more connected and efficient industrial systems.

Peering into the Future of HMI

Looking ahead, the potential integration of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) into HMI systems is a fascinating prospect. These technologies could revolutionize the way manufacturing functions are visualized and interacted with, offering immersive and interactive experiences. As data continues to play a vital role in manufacturing, the future of HMI technology appears incredibly promising. From advanced touch panels to sophisticated interactive screens, the possibilities for growth and innovation in HMI technology seem boundless.


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