One of the most interesting developments is Human Machine Interface (HMI) software. HMI software is a cutting-edge technology solution that is set to revolutionize industrial processes and tasks. In this article, we’ll find out exactly what HMI software is, how it works, and how it can benefit businesses that apply industrial processes.
Human-Machine Interface (HMI) software refers to software and custom application development solutions that provide a graphical user interface (GUI) to help operate or monitor industrial automation machines and equipment.
HMI software usually features a UI that consists of a dashboard to control and communicate with a machine, group of machines, or an entire system. The dashboard usually features input/output control functions and real-time data visualizations displayed on a graphical interface.
A simple example of a simple human-machine interface is a car dashboard. The driver can control many of the car operations through buttons or levers on the dashboard (or touch screen functionality), such as switching lights on and off, stereo tuning and volume, heaters and air conditioning, etc. The driver also receives data feedback such as speed of the vehicle, oil temperature, engine revs, etc.
The difference with industrial HMI software is that all the controls and data are available on one screen to make it convenient and efficient for the operator. The screen may be displayed on a computer monitor, tablet, smartphone, or even wearable devices such as head-mounted AR (augmented reality) smart glasses or goggles.
Most industrial machinery uses a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) system to control how the machine works and automate some of the functions. HMI solutions integrate with the PLC system so that when an input is changed on the HMI device, it creates an output action in the machine.
For instance, a conveyor belt may use a PLC to control the speed and direction of the belt and using HMI software could enable the operator to adjust the speed remotely. The PLC system may also use sensors and cameras to help with data acquisition or capture images and communicate them with the HMI software, enabling the operator greater supervisory control.
Most modern Human Machine Interfaces and PLC systems communicate via a cloud server and wireless internet rather than a direct wired connection. The HMI software dashboard is usually displayed on a touch screen device.
HMI software can be used in any workplace that uses machinery, industrial equipment, complex processes, or robotic hardware that needs to be controlled or monitored by a human operator. Examples of industrial settings could be production or manufacturing facilities, assembly lines, engineering plants, and refineries.
HMI software can also be applied to automate tasks and interactions between humans and machines, such as vending machines or household appliances.
To illustrate how HMI software can be applied in real-life, here are some specific use cases of HMI software in action.
Computer Numerical Control (CNC) lathes are machines that rotate a piece of material at a high speed and apply cutting tools to shape and finish them. Until recently, CNC lathes have used large consoles with buttons, LEDs, and a stationary computer monitor or built-in screen. Machine-level HMI solutions can help to make CNC lathes easier to operate and monitor. Manufacturing businesses that have implemented HMI software to control CNC lathes report that it also helps to reduce errors, boost productivity, and increase machine reliability.
The production of plastic molds can be hazardous due to the use of toxic chemicals and high temperatures. For processes such as injection molding, extrusion, or thermoforming, HMI software can integrate with a PLC system to provide full motion and temperature control and monitoring.
Most medium to large-scale assembly lines use robotic automation these days. Although many of the tasks are fully automated and do not require human control or supervision, some operations still need human involvement and machine supervision. HMI software can be integrated with Augmented Reality (AR) solutions to make hazardous assembly tasks much safer, as the engineer or operator can carry out the task remotely.
Human Machine Interface (HMI) software is the next big thing when it comes to the supervisory control of industrial processes and machinery. In recent years, we have seen revolutionary technology come to the forefront, particularly in the manufacturing industries, such as robotics, computer automation, cloud systems, and more.
Machine level HMI software represents a natural evolution from traditional manually operated controls to modern digital, cloud-based control systems that use touch screen devices to manage most aspects of machine operation and maintenance. The benefits are plain to see - improved productivity and efficiency, reduced costs, increased reliability, and safer working environments.
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