What is Human-Machine Interfaces

Human-machine interfaces (HMIs) are graphical interfaces that allow for interaction between humans and machines. In the industrial sector, HMIs are commonly used to control manufacturing lines and industrial equipment. They are traditionally connected to a programmable logic controller (PLC) in order to carry out commands once they are implemented on the HMI device. Nevertheless, using HMIs with PLCs has multiple inherent shortcomings, forcing engineers to explore alternative options.

The biggest drawback of HMI and PLC systems is that, because they are highly specialized, they lack flexibility. PLC modules can only carry out simple commands, meaning many devices are required to implement different functions. Additionally, collection of data is a crucial aspect of modern control systems. If there is a network outage, PLC modules are not capable of transmitting vital operational data.

With the right software, panel PCs can be used as an HMI. Unlike traditional PLC modules, which are typically configured for a single, highly-specific task, PCs can control many different functions at the same time. Additionally, if a PLC module fails, a replacement device that is configured for the task must be found, or the device must be configured at that time, either of which can extend operational downtime. This is not necessary with an industrial PC, as it can be pre-programmed and immediately swapped in.

Additionally, PCs require less equipment to fulfill the same computing operations, as one panel PC can be used to carry out all the different parts of a process. When using PLC modules, on the other hand, differently configured devices must be used for each task, significantly increasing the number of access points in a facility and taking up valuable space. The large number of PLC modules needed for a complex job can be consolidated with a few panel PCs capable of the same task.

Panel PCs are becoming increasingly popular as HMIs due to their versatility and flexibility. As software continues to develop and become more complex, new technologies are needed to take full advantage of it. Panel PCs can store data locally, whereas the traditional PLC/HMI configuration needs to transmit data to a server. Panel PCs also have significantly higher computing power and can therefore manage complex tasks much more easily.

Another advantage of panel PCs is their built-in touchscreen, which allows an entire production line or equipment process to be controlled from a single, central point. In lieu of a complex control panel with many confusing switches and buttons, operators can use a simple touchscreen interface with the entire control system mapped out visually. Depending on the application, there are different touch screen types available. For example, if employees need to wear gloves, resistive touchscreens are used. If they need screens with more than one touch point, projected capacitive touch screens are available. This adds to the versatility of panel PC systems.

Additionally, panel PCs allow for better visual representation of a control system and provide real-time data acquisition. Furthermore, they increase productivity by providing a user-friendly interface. As screens get larger and their resolutions get higher, users will be able to more clearly observe the equipment. Panel PCs typically employ a fanless cooling system, meaning they have long service lives, low failure rates, and high system reliability. When built with industrial-grade components, panel PCs can be used in hazardous or harsh environments and last much longer than commercial-grade computers.

As industrial and manufacturing processes continue to get more complicated, companies have to leave outdated control systems behind. Making the switch from HMI and PLC modules to panel PC solutions will prove to be a major benefit.

For all types of human-machine interfaces and industrial panel PCs, look no further than Infinite Industrials. Owned and operated by ASAP Semiconductor, we can help you find all types of parts for the aerospace, civil aviation, defense, electronics, industrial, and IT hardware markets. Our account managers are always available and ready to help you find all the parts and equipment you need, 24/7-365. For a quick and competitive quote, email us at sales@infiniteindustrials.com or call us at 1-714-705-4780. Let us show you why we consider ourselves the future of purchasing.


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