Industrial Touch Screens - Article

Industrial Touch Screens


Industrial touch screens are becoming an increasingly common feature of technology used to control industrial tasks and processes within the industrial sector.  Very often these screens are integrated with process controllers to create a single component touch screen PLC. This rise in industrial touch screens reflects the rapid uptake of touch screens for all types of user interfaces and especially in consumer electronics. But what is the difference between an industrial touch screen and those used in, for example, consumer smartphones and hand held games consoles? Where are industrial touch screens used? And what industrial touch screen PLC’s are available from Tecnologic?


Industrial Touch Screens– Click to view our range here.


What is an Industrial Touch Screen?

An industrial touch screen is a touch screen which has been designed to cope with the demands of an industrial setting, as opposed to being used in a home or office setting.

In particular it will be designed to withstand dust and water to a much greater degree, and it will typically be provided with a number of additional components and software enabling it to be configured for a variety of industrial applications. We now examine each of these in more detail.


IP Ratings for Consumer and Industrial Touch Screens

In an industrial setting, items of machinery are exposed to more extreme conditions than those typically experienced in homes and offices. In addition, the cost of technology failure is high, resulting in many hours of lost productivity. Industrial touch screen panels are given ratings indicating the degree of Ingress Protection (IP) against particles and against water. Industrial touch screens will be panel mounted – and it is the effectiveness of the seal between screen and panel which determines the IP rating. When the screen is part of an integrated touch screen PLC, a high level of protection is especially important since the hardware controlling the process will lie directly behind the screen. An integrated touch screen PLC cannot depend on some other part of the machinery casing to provide protection.

An IP rating consists of two figures. The first indicates protection against particles (dirt and dust) and ranges between 0 (not protected) and 6 (dust tight against even the smallest particles). The second figure indicates degree of watertightness and ranges between 0 (not protected) and 8 (watertight even when permanently submerged). Unless a piece of machinery is intended to be used underwater it will not usually need to achieve an 8 rating. Water ratings of 5 (protection against low pressure water jets) or 6 (protection against high pressure water jets) offer more than adequate protection for industrial touch screens in a typical factory floor setting, where screens may need to be regularly wiped down, touched with wet hands, subject to occasional liquid spills and splashes, or exposed to humid conditions or condensation (e.g. processes involving heating, cooking, steam and so on). 

By contrast, a typical consumer grade smartphone or laptop touch screen is not required to have to have an IP rating – unless being sold specifically as a ruggedized or semi-ruggedized product. But the actual IP rating of these products is perhaps indicated by recent calls for smartphones to be manufactured to a minimum IP rating of IP54 – so they are presumably considerably less than that currently.

The importance and effect of a higher IP rating is demonstrated by the increasing use of consumer grade smartphones to carry out tasks in industrial settings (e.g. bar code scanning for orders and deliveries). The replacement rate for non-ruggedized smartphones is about 5 times the rate for ruggedized phones, resulting in high replacement costs for businesses, not to mention significant losses in productivity caused by out of action machinery. Utilising industrial grade touch screens into your range of process control products is therefore essential to prolong the life of your products and minimise support and repair costs. All the touch screen PLC’s supplied by Tecnologic have IP ratings of IP65 or IP66 – the maximum rating possible except for risk of immersion.


Integrated Touch Screen PLC’s

Industrial touch screens can be supplied by themselves, requiring the equipment manufacturer to integrate them into specific products. However, it is more efficient to find an industrial grade touch screen already integrated with the hardware and software necessary for the required application. Industrial touch screens are therefore often supplied as complete industrial PCs – with processor, screen and configurable software already integrated into a single component. These are known as touch screen PLC’s. A touch screen PLC includes not only the industrial touch screen itself, but the necessary software to control how the screen’s contents change in response to inputs from the user and from the process being controlled.

An integrated touch screen PLC, as well as including a tough, industrial grade touch screen, offers many benefits to the manufacturer such as reduced development and integration time, and the ability to more easily create an easy to use and attractive user interface. These benefits are covered in more detail in other articles.


Where are Industrial Touch Screens Used?

Industrial touch screens are required in any situation where there is a high risk of damage from dust or water, or where a higher than average level of usage is likely.

Here are a few examples:


  • Environments that require frequent wiping down of machinery with cleaning fluids (e.g. food and beverage production, clean room operations).
  • Processes where liquids are constantly present (e.g. bottling, canning).
  • Processes involving high dust or particle levels (e.g. textile processing, wood, paper or plastics production).
  • Processes involving inherently high levels of dirt (e.g. waste management or agricultural processes).
  • Processes involving high humidity such as food preparation.
  • Environments subject to large temperature variation, inducing condensation.
  • Public places such as supermarkets or other retail environments.
  • Outdoor or open air locations where rain or moisture is likely to be present.
  • Where users are likely to have dirty, dusty or wet hands when using the touch screen.
  • Any application where it is important to minimise the risk of damage or breakdown.
  • Where the manufacturer wants to emphasise durability and long life, offer a long guarantee or minimise support and repair costs.


Click here to see some example applications employing one of our touch screen PLC’s.


Industrial Touch Screen PLC’s from Tecnologic

Tecnologic provide a range of industrial touch screens PLC’s. They range in size from 2.8 inch (Vision 280) to 12.1 inch (Vision 1210). Vision models 280, 350, 560, 570 and 1040 have an IP rating of IP65. An IP rating of IP66 is available for the Vision 1210 and a flat version of the Vision 570.

All are provided with free software tools allowing a manufacturer to configure both the process controller and the user interface in order to implement the required application. Free technical support is provided on all models, as well as a sale or return arrangement – so your designers can assess the suitability of your candidate touch screen PLC and accurately estimate development times.

Unitronics touch screen PLC’s feature a host of additional technical features designed to make the manufacturer’s job as easy as possible, from snap-in modules, remote access capability and easy connectivity to other systems such as profibus, Canbus etc.

Industrial Touch Screen PLC's - Take a look at our individual product pages to see what each model offers – or call Tecnologic for advice on choosing a suitable model for your application.

Tags for this article: industrial touch screens, touch screen plc, vision touch screens,

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