Machines have become staples of many industries, from agricultural to the manufacturing industry. Machines make products, control and monitor supplies, and even transport materials safely and more efficiently. And behind every device is a program that human operators use to control machines. This type of software is called HMI software.
What is HMI?
HMI is short for human-machine interfaces. HMI software is a powerful software that optimizes what a machine can do. This software allows operators to manage command panels by interacting with the GUI or graphical user interface.
In a programmer’s point of view, HMI is switches that consist of different devices such as key locks, pushbuttons, indicators, emergency stop switches, and many more. Generally, there are two kinds of HMI software: machine and supervisory.
What is the Use of HMI?
Programmers create HMI software for machine-level or supervisory-level. Applications are different for each type, and usually, these kinds of software are costly with very high upfront expenses but eventually, the cost will pay off accordingly.
Low Tech VS. Complex HMI Software
Low tech HMI applications simplify machine controls. Meanwhile, sophisticated HMI applications can perform more complicated functions. Choosing HMI software begins with a careful study of different product features and specs. Considering what kind of GUI is needed by the operator and what files operators need (diagrams, digitized photos, or detailed schematics) should also be included. Meanwhile, factors like machine performance requirements, system architecture, integration, procurement costs, and operations should be included.
An HMI component may also be programmed to perform essential functions making these more sophisticated than basic HMI. Basic functions such as editing parameters and providing commands to control features are just some ways HMI can be used for more complicated tasks.
Whether an HMI is basic or sophisticated, software editors are used to providing enhanced functionality. With touch screen capabilities, operators will be able to use control functions for various automation projects seamlessly. Software editors use Windows-based software and permit editing of variables for multiple protocols.
Using HMI Accessories
Meanwhile, various HMI accessories complement displays to ease operator use. Accessories depend on the software’s complexity or the machine and the range of intake and output options. It includes digital or analog I and O and communication protocols from simple to more sophisticated applications.
Let’s cite an example of an HMI software that is used to control multiple networks. ControlNet is used to control a unique high-speed transmission network for critical data and intake/output data. An example would be DeviceNet, which handles industrial purposes such as drives, motor starters, photoelectric cells, limit switches, and manifolds. This network can also control PCs on the structure and other programmable logic controllers. These systems also offer more efficient data management and communication between operators and machines.
The Rise of Mobile HMI Software
Still, there are more sophisticated HMI that’s developed for mobile and portable use. The Microsoft Windows CE is one of these. It is a scalable Windows version OS made for handheld devices. HMI software for mobile devices is more cost-efficient as the OS is a part of machine-level HMI and solid-state open-sourced HMI controllers. Servers and portable devices are used for HMI.
At present, the most widely used HMI software application is those used to control HMI from mobile or handheld devices like smartphones, tablets, and PCs located offside. Original HMI requires operators to be at the manufacturing or operating area to use the HMI on machines, but updated cloud-based HMI offers more efficient remote access. An operator can monitor and control devices no matter where he is. The latest applications of HMI lets operators make timely changes to different machine functions.
Proper HMI Implementation for Pandemic-Affected Industries
Because HMI software is the way users and machines communicate, proper HMI implementation must be considered at all costs. The interaction between devices and users should be intuitive as mistakes are not an option.
If the HMI design is poorly implemented, users, operators, and possible customers may feel alienated. In turn, users may overlook the system, and this can lead to unsafe or poor performance. A properly-implemented HMI system will do more than just control the machine but will also gather information or feedback on the system’s overall performance.
Remote control of machines has become very important in coronavirus-affected businesses and manufacturing companies. With HMI software, an operator or user can control devices remotely. Companies can continue operations despite the ongoing pandemic.
HMI Uses In Different Industries
The following industries benefit from properly-implemented HMI.
HMI systems offer space-saving industrial solutions. These systems use high-quality human interface designs and are developed to use only minimal space. Most industrial-use HMIs have user-friendly control panels with advanced switching for enhanced uptime and to boost productivity. In industrial settings, users also use scada systems to remotely monitor and control critical equipment.
You’ll find HMI systems in the production of various products, including food, medicines, electronics, automotive parts, and many more.
In the transportation industry, HMI systems are very complex, allowing improved and safer operator controls and efficient passenger access. HMI systems should be easier to use and understand so that human error is reduced.
Almost all modern transportation methods use HMI software. Trains, subways, airplanes, ships, construction vehicles, and even land vehicles are now equipped with updated HMI software. Various operating panels and communication systems for passengers also use HMI. Machines that sell train tickets or information panels for bus/ train/plane schedules have HMI software as well.
Public Security Industry
HMI software is embedded in various machines and equipment that are regularly used by people in public. Devices such as automated teller machines (ATMs), parking meters, elevator control panels, vending machines, and so on also have HMI. It’s critical to consider product marking, product labeling, material durability, and environmental sealing when selecting the right HMI.
Moving and lifting equipment and machines like elevators, conveyors, cranes and trucks, robotics, and other support equipment also require a reliable and durable HMI system.
HMI selection relies on several factors: technical, communication, and ergonomic. It’s crucial to find the right HMI software for seamless users or operators to machine communication, which can improve use, promote the safety of the operator or user, and increase productivity, especially in an industrial setting.