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Automation & Motion Control
Focus on the Future of Machine Controllers
10/9/2012

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More than half of the survey respondents identified the ability for controllers to handle additional machine control functions (54.7 percent) and lower hardware costs (51.4 percent) as top priorities, along with one controller for both machine control and operator interfaces (41.3 percent).
More than half of the survey respondents identified the ability for controllers to handle additional machine control functions (54.7 percent) and lower hardware costs (51.4 percent) as top priorities, along with one controller for both machine control and operator interfaces (41.3 percent).

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naperlou
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Energy monitoring
naperlou   10/9/2012 9:57:05 AM
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Al, Denis Wylie mentions energy monitoring becoming more important in the future.  The survey shows that it is not a major consideration today.  The reality is that energy consumption in the US, and the developing world, is going down.  Older coal fired plants, the ones that would cost a lot to bring into compliance, are being shut down and not replaced.  Basically, each generation of machine, whether it be a refrigator or a computer, uses less energy than the last.  Just the process of replacing worn out equipment over time brings down usage without any special consideration.  We are becoming more energy efficient by default.  There are lots of other issues with machine control than energy, as the survey shows.

apresher
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Energy Efficiency Focus
apresher   10/9/2012 10:40:39 AM
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Naperlou,

There is a move in machine control (via networking developments such as CIPenergy, PROFIenergy and SERCOS Energy) to more easily measure and control energy usage within manufacturing plants.  One simple example of low hanging fruit is putting machines into a low power standby or sleep state during production pauses (lunch, breaks, etc.) which has been shown to reduce energy usage 20-30% during the pauses. 

The question in the survey was intended to query users on how important reducing energy is perceived among users and machine builders.  Basically one-third of the survey respondents identified energy as an area of potential improvement.

I think that Wylie's comment that focus on energy efficiency would be a growing factor is based on this technology moving forward and producing significant results.

Rob Spiegel
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Talkin Bout My Generation
Rob Spiegel   10/9/2012 2:06:54 PM
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I find it very interesting the slice of the pie that relates to satisfying the needs and desires of a generation of engineers who grew up playing video games. We'll see more and more of this in coming years. Smart vendors will deliver HMI that fits the upcoming generation.

Charles Murray
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Re: Talkin Bout My Generation
Charles Murray   10/9/2012 7:20:19 PM
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Good point, Rob. That's why the interface is being compared to the iPad interface. For many younger users, that's the standard.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Talkin Bout My Generation
Rob Spiegel   10/10/2012 12:15:18 PM
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Yes, there is a clear generational shift here. I was surprised by the size of the pie that related to age when it came to HMI. That may be a function of a growing number of young engineers entering the workforce.

Charles Murray
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Re: Talkin Bout My Generation
Charles Murray   10/10/2012 6:11:27 PM
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Yes, 32.3% is a big piece of the pie, and it's directly called out as a generational issue. You could also make a case that the other pieces of the pie -- ability to zoom, keyboardless, more intuitive -- are at least partially age-related issues, even though they're not called out as such.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Talkin Bout My Generation
TJ McDermott   10/11/2012 1:57:19 AM
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Rob, Charles, I disagree that the "generational" aspect has to do with people.

This article used pie charts and bar graphs to relate information to us.  Mr. Fresher also put those percentages into text form in his paragraphs.  Which method for conveying information was more useful, more intuitive, more quickly absorbed?  We're inherently visual animals, and can take in a situation with a single glance at an overall image.  Text is serial, one piece of information at a time.

It's not because younger engineers necessarily expect such interfaces, but the fact that they are simply more useful, more efficient.

If we placed two identical manufacturing machines side by side, with only the HMI being different (one with a text-only interface, one with a rich graphical interface), which operator and machine would be more productive?  Want to place a bet?  The text-based interface will take up more of an operator's time.

 

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Talkin Bout My Generation
Rob Spiegel   10/11/2012 11:26:13 AM
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TJ, so you're saying that most people -- once they have adjusted to the graphically rich interface -- would choose the more visually oriented HMI.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Talkin Bout My Generation
TJ McDermott   10/11/2012 11:33:02 AM
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Rob, I feel very strongly that this is so.  I also think there is almost no adjustment time required.

A display with a bunch of numbers, all the same size, all indicating some feature of a machine or process is difficult to assimilate, even if you use it every single day.

A display that uses bar graphs, dial-type gauge indicators, can be so much more rapidly assimilated.

The gauges and bar graphs usually incorporate normal operating range indicators, so one can see in an instant that what is being indicated is "in the green".

Such graphical displays usually also incorporate the numeric value into the graphic which is used when the exact value is needed.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Talkin Bout My Generation
Rob Spiegel   10/11/2012 11:35:50 AM
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I agree with you, TJ. Having spent decades working for magazines, I'm well aware of the importantce of data presented visually. Chuck's pie chart itself is a good example. 

Scott Orlosky
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Re: Talkin Bout My Generation
Scott Orlosky   10/19/2012 5:08:10 PM
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Interesting conversational thread.  It's hard to image a generation of machine operators flocking to equipment because they have a cool HMI.  People are very adaptable and graphic presentations have a way of presenting very data rich information in way that is easy assimilated.  A good (and efficient) thing for all generations.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Talkin Bout My Generation
Rob Spiegel   10/24/2012 12:31:10 AM
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Good point, Scott. I've heart anecdotal information about young engineers becoming more attracted to automation and control because of video-game-like presentations that make the idea of hanging out in a plant more attractive.

Jack Rupert, PE
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Multi-touch
Jack Rupert, PE   10/22/2012 11:15:43 AM
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Interesting graph on the reasons why designers would want multi-touch.  One of the big ones being for people who have grown up with those technologies.  The thing is, I was doing HMI design with resistive touch prior to Apple's development.  It was the old-timers that were tryint to slide switches or push two buttons at the same time (with, of course, some real interesting results). 

kf2qd
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HMI's are great
kf2qd   11/2/2012 9:43:23 AM
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Worked for a company building some specialized welding equiptment. Went from a keyboard type parameter entry to a HMI. At first it was thought that the operators would have a problem, but the operators all loved it. Advantage was the amount of data displayed and the ease of moving from parameter set to paramenter set.

The Touch Panel HMI's are very durable and hold up well in less than ideal environments. And the more expensive units are not necesarily the better ones. We used 2 different suppliers and the more expensive PLCs/HMIs did not give better performance.

It did require some re-design of the operator controls - We were able to replace potentiometers with a small CTS encoder through standard I/O (cut costs because we didn't need the analog inputs) and allowed us to save all weld parameters, The operator could turn an encoder or key in a number to change a setting.

Wish the touch panel were more available for PC's as it makes a really nice way to communicate with the machine.

The biggest problem with an HMI is the tendancy to put too much info and too much clutter on the display. A too busy screen is harder to use than a simpler, locgically arranged display. Too often the display has little relationship to what the process is, it was made to look pretty, not function pretty.

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