An HMI is a frequently used component in the automation and manufacturing industries – but what does it do and why? Allow us to follow up our Preventive Maintenance post by highlighting a critical component in monitoring the vitals of manufacturing equipment and systems.
WHAT IS AN HMI?
HMI stands for Human Machine Interface. An HMI is an interface that permits interaction between a human and a machine. It is an information gateway. Formerly, warning lights and alarms were commonplace, with a range of input options from toggles and switches to keyboards and joysticks. Now, fully programmable touchscreens are becoming industry standard and for good reason. From your smartphone’s touchscreen to your vehicle’s instrument panel, you interact with a type of HMI on a daily basis. We’ll continue with a focus on manufacturing-specific HMIs .
WHAT DOES IT DO?
Simply put, a variety of sensors gathers valuable equipment data which is then processed through the PLC (programmable logic controller). The HMI presents this data visually and allows a user to respond accordingly.
The key to an effective HMI is efficient two way communication. The machine needs to provide valuable data and the human user needs to be able to receive, interpret and respond to the data accordingly. A range of sensors plays the important role of acquiring the data that is then sent to the interface. The programmable touchscreen HMI is an invaluable component in our custom automation projects. Picture a touchscreen that replaces the need for traditional mechanical inputs and gauges. It’s where users can view and record equipment vitals in simple formats and conveniently input any desired changes.
An HMI such as the Weintek MT8070iE becomes the control center for our client’s custom equipment. We design and build to spec custom user interfaces. Whether the application calls for a basic graphic and series of on/off requests, or comprehensive diagrams and custom inputs as illustrated on the Weintek above, efficient and effective equipment control interfaces can be achieved through modern HMIs.
BENEFITS OF AN HMI:
An HMI offers numerous benefits that improve safety, efficiency, and costs.
Here are the major reasons to implement an HMI :
Insight: We don’t take lightly the phrase, “knowledge is power.” Prior to equipment failures, systems can provide clues that something is wrong. A temperature sensor may indicate excessive heating. A regular equipment check may catch the notification in time, but an HMI can receive and record the alarm, initiate an audible alert, and then send out an email message for remote alerting. Also, HMIs streamline the monitoring process. All pertinent information is displayed in a clear and concise visual layout.
Responsiveness: Instant alerts and remote monitoring capabilities allow 24/7 access to a machine’s vitals along with the ability to respond remotely. In some cases, on-site controls reduce the need for a technician to physically touch the machinery. HMI networking is available in both wired and wireless forms to allow remote viewing and control. Now, off site adjustments can be made instantly.
Safety: The HMI gives the user full control of inputs from a safe and comfortable position. No longer do individuals need to enter dangerous situations for equipment monitoring or simple adjustments. The HMI allows access to comprehensive system-wide data without having to physically be near sensors or switches.
Value: An HMI interface brings big value to manufacturing through improved safety, better system insight, and improved responsiveness. HMIs can also greatly improve production efficiency through the same benefits. Valuable data is almost always on the screen of an HMI , and if not captured and analyzed, is a wasted opportunity. With proper utilization, waste is reduced, production can often be increased, and monitoring becomes less labor intensive. The increased efficiency is the driver in cost reduction and the key motivator in investing in a quality HMI interface.
THINGS TO CONSIDER:
HMIs are valuable tools, but they do require model-specific programming knowledge and experience. There are numerous brands that accomplish nearly identical tasks. The key differing factor is not what they do, but how they do it. Or, should we say, what it takes to make them do what you want. Be sure that you are aware of any existing systems in place before recommending or implementing a complete automation solution.
At Trimantec, our programming engineers have the training necessary to work with a variety of manufacturer’s platforms. Our expertise spans multiple industries and software including:
- Allen Bradley (Micrologix, CompactLogix)
- Automation Direct (Koyo, Do-more, Click)
- Mitsubishi (Melsec, Alpha)
- Keyence (KV series)
- And more…
If you are in search of a supplier for your manufacturing needs, we invite you to let our highly experienced engineers assist you with all of your PLC and HMI programming and implementation needs.
We hope this blog has provided insight into HMIs and their uses. Feel free to contact us with any further questions. We are always willing to help.