"Sleek" and "rugged" aren't words that usually go together in the realm of human-machine interfaces (HMIs), and it's even rarer for them to be joined by "flexible" and "modular." Well, thanks to some technological matchmaking by Red Lion Controls, all four are moving in together permanently in its new Graphite series of advanced operator interface panels. With all cast-aluminum construction, Graphite provides the process control industry's first rugged HMI solution to combine a range of versatile, plug-in modules with protocol conversion, data logging and web-based monitoring and control.
So can Graphite be described in just two words? Well, how about "aluminum tablet?" Sounds pretty good, right?
Graphite HMIs are all full-color touchscreens and are available in eight models and five width sizes, including 7, 9, 10, 12 and 15 ins. They also have sleek bezels that provide a large display given their overall dimensions. Both the 7- and 10-in. sizes are available as sunlight-visible models.
"We're seeking to take the appearance of mainstream consumer interfaces, such as the iPad, and apply that appearance to an industrial setting," says Jeff Thornton, product management director of Red Lion's indication and interface divisions. "This will enable HMIs to become even more important focal points for people to gather data from their industrial applications."
Thornton adds that Red Lion's developers made several voice of the customer (VoC) trips into the control and automation field, and users reported they wanted an HMI with wider temperature ranges, heavier shock and vibration specifications and a die-cast aluminum housing, so they can install the HMI and not worry about it. "Graphite can now operate between -20 °C and 60 °C, and we hope it will be able to run between -20 °C and 70 °C," adds Thornton.
Though not as obvious as its sleekness and ruggedness, Graphite's flexibility is probably its most useful capability. The family's range of plug-in modules enables customers to easily create solutions for today and have the option of expanding to meet changing business requirements in the future. Further, Graphite's users and their organizations can reduce development and commissioning times compared to traditional systems, which typically use an HMI paired with separate I/O, PLCs and other controllers, and require more programming and configuration time.
"Our first-round release of Graphite directly accepts I/O modules for eight flavors of PID control, DC voltage and current, thermocouples, RTUs and other components," explains Thornton. "More modules will be coming next year for communications with fieldbuses, such as Profibus, DeviceNet and other protocols, and we'll add cellular capabilities later in 2014. These will allow users to bring in I/O data and then communicate it out to any device," adds Thornton. "Graphite also carries over all the capabilities of our G3 HMIs."
In addition, Graphite has a built-in web server that enables users to monitor and control their applications via PCs, tablets or smart phones. Also, SMS text-messaging and email alerts provide early warning of process issues. And its built-in protocol converter allows programmers to select 13 or more simultaneous protocols from a list of over 250 to seamlessly integrate disparate devices such as PLCs, drives, barcode readers and panel meters.
All of Graphite's capabilities are supported by Red Lion's award-winning Crimson 3.0 software, which is included at no extra cost. Crimson 3.0 makes it fast and easy to configure protocols, define data tags, set up sophisticated applications and create attractive user interfaces.
"The HMI has become the nexus of the machine, and our new Graphite series offers the highest level of protocol support to simplify even the most complex multi-vendor environments," adds Thornton. "By logging performance data and critical events, customers can implement process improvements or perform fault-finding activities."
For more information, contact Red Lion Controls by calling 717- 767-6511 or visiting www.redlion.net/graphite.