Industrial Automation Case Study
Helping create the next generation of products for an industrial equipment manufacturer, Liquidware revamped the human-machine interface and enhanced motor controller performance. This promoted sales of the manufacturer’s equipment, as well as their proprietary automation software.
A leading manufacturer of industrial automation controllers found that customers were interested in an upgraded, more intuitive human-machine interface (HMI). Motor controllers and automation equipment have long lifecycles, and can be installed to operate a wide variety of machinery. For their next generation product, the client was interested in designing a modern, powerful HMI that would further distinguish their equipment from the competition.
The manufacturer was interested in using a discrete, self-contained, embedded computer as a programmable HMI. This had the advantage of allowing customers to select different HMI depending on their budget and needs, and also allowed them to upgrade the HMI over the lifecycle of the controller.
Liquidware recommended that the manufacturer segment the customer base and design a modular HMI that could be swapped or upgraded according to the customer’s needs. This also allowed the manufacturer to scale production of their motor controllers and proprietary sensor equipment while allowing customer demand to determine the embedded computer and HMI used.
Based on the manufacturer’s research and analysis, Liquidware developed 3 different HMIs- each designed to serve a different purpose. Simpler HMIs were designed to serve as a switch panel for basic functions and local control. These devices were equipped with 2.8” resistive touchscreens and sub-100 MHz microcontrollers with a hard programmed GUI, eliminating the need for a dedicated operating system.
Mid-grade HMIs were designed with single-core ARM Cortex processors clocking at 720 MHz, loaded with a customized Linux operating system to facilitate wireless networking, complex local functions and a standard application stack.
High-end HMIs served as workstations, allowing for local data analysis and real-time configuration of automation programming based on statistical readouts. All units were built with USB and RS232 interfaces, as well as custom pinouts for access to an onboard analog-to-digital converter.
Liquidware also developed software and middleware infrastructure that enabled centralized remote access to each embedded computer over wireless networks. Liquidware also provided a Windows XP Embedded option, for customers who loaded the devices with proprietary Windows-based applications.
As technology advisor and developer, Liquidware worked with the client to recommend specifications and types of devices that would best drive sales of their motor controllers and automation software platform.
The HMIs proved to be a success with the client’s customers in early testing, boosting demand and early purchase orders. Throughout the project, Liquidware has provided technical sales support, documentation, in addition to refining assembly and installation processes.
The manufacturer is in final market testing with the finished device. Liquidware is currently ramping up production as early purchase orders are being placed with the equipment manufacturer.