Evolving ergonomics with multi-touch

User habits will migrate from smartphones to the HMIs of the future.


User habits will migrate from smartphones to the HMIs of the future. Courtesy: B&R AutomationIn the area of consumer electronics, multi-touch has not only changed the ergonomics of devices, it has changed user habits as well. In industrial automation, this technology has the potential to make machine operation more intuitive, faster and safer. In essence, this may bring about a revolution in ergonomics for machine and system visualization units.

In industrial automation, there has been a strong and consistent trend towards touch screens for over a decade. They have even broken through in a big way in hygiene-related industries such as foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals. "Touch screens are not likely to completely replace devices with physical keys," said Raimund Ruf, manager of the HMI Business Unit at B&R Automation. "Nevertheless; they will continue to advance into more and more areas due to their overall versatility. At the same time, we are seeing much more emphasis being placed on user ergonomics, both in how panel hardware is arranged as well as in the design of the user interface."

The multi-touch technology we are familiar with from smartphones, which can detect and evaluate the presence of two or more points of contact with the screen at the same time. This offers the next big leap in innovation in the field of machine manufacturing.

It promises a significant increase in usability by simplifying system operation while increasing the level of safety at the same time. Operations where one hand is used to open up a menu while the other sets parameters setting are definitely a possibility. This would eliminate the need to jump back and forth between sub-menus while increasing overall clarity in the application. The operator is able to get where he needs to go faster because complex menu layers can be eliminated. Handling lists would also be simplified since the operator could simply scroll through the content instead of having to rely on narrow scrollbars.

Operational safety can also be increased by implementing methods such as blocking certain actions until an additional button is pressed simultaneously with the other hand. Even if this doesn't completely replace dead-man's controls just yet, multi-touch operation used in this way can still prevent critical operating steps from being carried out unintentionally. 

Content provided by B&R Automation.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2013 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
2015 Mid-Year Report: Manufacturing's newest tool: In a digital age, digits will play a key role in the plant of the future; Ethernet certification; Mitigate harmonics; World class maintenance
2015 Lubrication Guide: Green and gold in lubrication: Environmentally friendly fluids and sealing systems offer a new perspective
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Cyber security attack: The threat is real; Hacking O&G control systems: Understanding the cyber risk; The active cyber defense cycle
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths
New industrial buildings: Greener, cleaner, leaner; New building designs for industry; Take a new look at absorption cooling; Offshored jobs start to come back

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.