Colour Touch Screen PLCs from Unitronics - Article

 

Tecnologic supplies a range of Unitronics PLC’s with integrated touch screens capable of controlling a variety of automation and temperature control tasks. A touch screen interface offers significant benefits to end users, while integrated touch screen PLC’s offer savings to manufacturers incorporating them into their product designs.

Here we examine these benefits more closely and look at why manufacturers should be seriously considering upgrading their product range to include a Unitronics colour touch screen PLC. We also outline the assistance that Tecnologic can provide to manufacturers who decide to take this step forward.

Colour Touch Screens – click here to view our range of touch screen products.

 

Advantages of a Colour Touch Screen

Colour touch screens are increasingly commonplace within everyday consumer goods and systems used by consumers. From iphones to ipads, from ATM’s to in-store payment consoles, touch screen interfaces are familiar to almost everybody. From an end user point of view, a touch screen, and especially a colour touch screen, is immediately more appealing and more familiar than a traditional industrial control panel, and less intimidating than a PC with keyboard. This helps to overcome technophobia and can significantly reduce resistance to the introduction of new technology in the workplace.

But the benefits of a colour touch screen are far more tangible than user acceptance. The first tangible benefit is increased flexibility. Traditional user interfaces based on alphanumeric keys, knobs and buttons greatly limit the range of inputs and therefore the range of tasks they can be used to control. By comparison, touch screens allow huge flexibility in interface design. The whole screen can switch in a second to offer a completely different range of options depending on the current stage of the task. Or it can be programmed to give access to a large number of different tasks. Using a touch screen as both feedback display and input device means no requirement for a keyboard or other physical controls which can be expensive to tool and are more prone to breakage.

The second tangible benefit is increased ease of use.  The combination of colour with graphics means that there is far greater scope to represent a task in concrete, rather than abstract ways. Studies in Human Computer Interaction repeatedly show that the more concretely a task and the available options can be presented to a user, the more easily, quickly and accurately they can choose appropriate options for the required task. Having to translate a task into words or even numeric codes, slows down the speed at which users can select actions and increases the chances of error. In short, a colour touch screen PLC is likely to produce much lower rates of user error – which translates into better industrial processes and less time wasted.

Of course, the less mental effort and skill required to use a particular piece of equipment, the faster it will be to train personnel to operate it correctly. It also means that a greater range of personnel can be expected to operate the equipment. For the company purchasing the equipment this means shorter and less expensive training as well as greater scope for multi-skilling its workforce.

 

The Unitronics Range of PLC’s with Integrated Touch Screens

The Unitronics range includes four models of PLC with an integrated touch display screen. The size of screen varies from 3.5 inch (Vision 350), 5.7 inch (Vision 570), 10.4 inch (Vision 1040) right up to a 12 inch touch screen (Vision 1210).

Choosing between these models depends on the complexity of the control tasks, combined with the required complexity and image quality required by the user interface.

For instance, the Vision 350 and Vision 570 both have a screen resolution of 320x240 pixels. These smaller screens are most suited to applications where a limited amount of information needs to be displayed at any one time.By contrast, the Vision 1040 and Vision 1210 have a screen resolution of 800x600 pixels and are capable of presenting larger amounts of detailed graphical information.

All the Unitronics touch screen PLC models include a variety of built-in graphical features including:

 

A virtual keyboard, allowing text entry when needed. This makes designing and programming the user interface much quicker and easier, as special text entry screens do not need to be specially designed.

A time-based controller, allowing different processes to be scheduled to run on different days and times. This saves having to design calendar and time screens.

An image librarycontaining hundreds of different graphical elements which can all be incorporated into the user interface as required. This saves having to pay a graphical designer to design basic control-related images.

 

To find out more detail regarding the many features of the Unitronics touch screen PLC range, including PLC capability, click here.

 

Cost and Cost-Benefits of Incorporating a Unitronics Touch Screen PLC

As you might expect, a Unitronics touch screen PLC is more expensive than a PLC without an integrated display. Initially this may be likely to discourage manufacturers from migrating products from cheaper PLC components. But when the entire component setand development process is taken into account, a PLC with integrated HMI can result in overall cost savings. There are 4 major sources of cost saving:

 

One device replaces many: Unitronics PLC’s have 24 PID control loops for controlling processes such as temperature, humidity and pressure. But they also include additional capacity and features which can be used for a huge range of other processes such as motor control, flow measurement and high speed counting amongst others. This all means that a single Unitronics PLC can replace multiple other devices with just one device. Looking just at PID controllers, a cheap, single loop PLC might cost around £50, so the cost of 24 would be higher than even the highest spec Unitronics instrument. And In some cases, a Unitronics unit with integrated screen is cheaper than some PLC’s without a screen.

On top of the basic PLC cost, you would need to add on the cost of a host of other hardware items required to provide other necessary functionality, including real time clocks, comms links, Ethernet connections, and of course the colour touch screen.

Not all applications will need to use all 24 loops of course. But they give manufacturers the option of designing multi-function (i.e. higher value) products for no additional hardware costs, which means there is potentially a higher margin to be made.

 

Lower integration costs: As with all Unitronics’ PLC’s the HMI is already integrated into the PLC. As well as meaning no labour costs to wire them together, it also cuts out a stage of the development lifecycle, which means quicker product launch – important in many competitive markets.

 

Lower software development costs: Programming a Unitronics device involves much simpler coding compared to potentially comparable solutions like bespoke PCB controllers for instance, which are written in a more complex software code requiring specialist software writers. The simpler Unitronics coding system (accessed using Unitronics’ free software tools) means that software can be written by a manufacturer’s in-house software teams, as opposed to being contracted out to specialists.

As well as the obvious cost savings this provides, it also gives manufacturers greater overall control of the software writing process, resulting in greater flexibility and faster turnaround times when alterations are needed.

 

Future proofing: Because each Unitronics touch screen PLC has so much capacity it is possible for manufacturers to expand and enhance their systems over time by writing additional software and/oradding extra remote modules, but without having to make substantial hardware changes or re-implement existing functionality. This provides future proofing for manufacturers, enabling them to respond fast to their customers’ requirements and greatly extending the shelf life of their product range.

Any one of these factors may justify the cost of migrating to a Unitronics touch screen PLC. Taken together, it should be clear that cost should be no obstacle.

The only remaining question for a manufacturer involves selection of an appropriate model in the Unitronics range, and access to the technical knowledge required to achieve a successful product upgrade. Tecnologic is well placed to provide both.

 

How Tecnologic Can Help You Migrate Your Products to Include Touch Screens

At Tecnologic we understand that upgrading a product range with a new set of components requires additional technical knowledge and expertise in order to fully understand the hardware and develop the software capability necessary to integrate it successfully. So it makes sense to work with a supplier who can give practical help and advice throughout the design and implementation phases, not simply sell you a component.

Tecnologic works with all its customers to provide honest advice regarding the most suitable and cost-effective components. We will take the time to discuss your application and understand what you are trying to achieve – if necessary we will even arrange a site visit. We will then advise on different component options. If a colour touch screen seems to be indicated we can then advise which of the Unitronics touch screen PLC’s is most suited to the application.

If you wish to evaluate a proposed model we can arrange to supply a component on a sale or return basis. This allows your technical people to familiarise themselves with the component and associated software tools. It also greatly assists your design team in estimating the likely development times that will be involved.

For manufacturers with in-house software facilities, there is access to high level technical support from Unitronics’ engineers as well as free software tools. Alternatively, for those manufacturers who choose to outsource their software, Tecnologic can put you in touch with trusted software writers familiar with the Unitronics range.

To find out more about our Unitronics PLC range please click here.

Alternatively, contact us todayon 01252 377 600 for a no-obligation chat about your application or to arrange a site visit.

Tags for this article: colour touch screen, colour touch screens, touch screen, touch screens, touch screen plc, touch display screen, 12 inch touch screen, Unitronics,

Bookmark and Share