Human machine interface (HMI) design: It takes more than just pretty pictures

May 6, 2015 3:18:00 AM | Posted by Dave Cortivo

HMI design isn’t just about being creative, it has to take into account who will be seeing it on a regular basis and what it will be used for.

In order to insure successful implantation, effective HMI design should start with the same proper planning as any other project. Just making an HMI look like the real think is not always the best answer. HMIs are present in a great deal of applications, which leads to multiple lessons that should be taken into consideration when starting a new design project. Often times, designers overlook what they could have learned from past designs (and even mistakes) until it’s too late. It is imperative that information from accidents from the past are used to insure success in the future. Arming yourself with simple rules from lessons learned on the how to communicate to operations is extremely important to the success of your project.

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To fuse or not to fuse individual I/O points

Apr 29, 2015 3:32:00 AM | Posted by JWeathers

When designing a PLC control panel, one of the fundamental decisions is how to provide overcurrent protection for I/O modules. Should each I/O module be fused with a single fuse, or should each I/O point be fused individually? Here are 11 things to consider when deciding how and when to fuse I/O points.

1. Always follow specific customer project requirements and specifications when they are provided. Note that many times it is appropriate from an electrical standpoint to fuse each I/O module with a single fuse. However, customers may require individual fusing per I/O point (or per field device) so that one fault only disrupts the one point.

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Fear of darkness: Integrating automation systems to a more complex protocol convertor

Apr 15, 2015 4:22:00 AM | Posted by Bruce Billedeaux

As data collection becomes a larger task, it may be time to see if you need an automation system that lasts longer and makes system integration easier.

One task I am commonly asked to perform is to redesign a system to eliminate the aptly named “black box”. As most readers of this blog know a “black box” is the generic term for a protocol convertor. Originally, these devices only converted electrical protocols, for example RS-232 to RS-485. They were named because no one knew how the magic took place in the “black box”. If these boxes remained solely electrical protocol convertors, I don’t think that my services would have much value to our clients. These original “black boxes” ran for years without any user intervention or maintenance requirements.

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Moving beyond technology: 4 keys to project success

Apr 2, 2015 5:19:00 AM | Posted by John Clemons

Technology is only a tool for project success. Proper training and access to data combined with the appropriate technologies is a power combination for achieving results.

I’m an engineer and I work for a technology company. All the projects we do are about technology, and rightly so. Technology is an extremely powerful driving force in our world. Technology is used everywhere, and it’s all just amazing.

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Why Team Communications Fail

Mar 27, 2015 5:24:00 AM | Posted by Bruce Brandt

Communications issues between team members or customers delay projects and increase frustration levels. See tips on how to address popular miscommunications and avoid them in the future.

Unless you are a one person team, you will always have problems with team communications during projects. Even if you are a one person team, you will always have problems with customer communications during projects. Those are rather absolute statements, but after 45 years of projects, I can’t remember a project where there were absolutely no communications issues. In analyzing those issues some patterns emerge that point to underlying causes of miscommunication.

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Automation resource taxation

Mar 18, 2015 4:48:00 AM | Posted by Art Howell

Today’s engineers are faced with having to keep up on new technologies as well as maintaining older systems, and oftentimes integrating the two. See three examples on automation resource taxation.

Is it my imagination, or are today’s automation resources being heavily taxed? Today’s engineers are faced with an onslaught of technology that seems to be growing exponentially. On top of keeping up with all the new technologies, engineers are faced with having to maintain older technologies as well. There are so many varieties of products on the market that the integration of all these different technologies is becoming increasingly taxing, as well. For instance, there are many ways for these devices to communicate information, different network types, and protocols. A basic knowledge of communication networks and protocols is a must.

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Advanced regulatory versus model-predictive control

Mar 17, 2015 3:46:00 AM | Posted by Jim Ford

Some currently practicing control engineers may be regarding the features and capabilities of advanced regulatory control (ARC) as inferior to model-predictive control (MPC)—but are they really?

A contributor to a recent LinkedIn APC blog made the following statement about the difference between advanced regulatory control (ARC) and model-predictive control (MPC):
“In a general and very simple way, an advanced regulatory controller acts based on an error, while a predictive controller uses a model in order to predict what is going to happen and acts in consequence to avoid it.”

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Control System Engineering: Are PE stamped designs a requirement?

Mar 4, 2015 9:16:00 AM | Posted by David Paul

Professional engineering licensure for control system designers, engineers, and integrators is always a topic that can bring forth heated arguments both for and against licensure. The purpose of this article is to put forth the facts and let the readers determine if professional engineer (PE) designed control systems are a requirement for their systems and facilities.

Professional engineering licensure for control system designers, engineers, and integrators is always a topic that can bring forth heated arguments both for and against licensure. The purpose of this article is to put forth the facts and let the readers determine if professional engineer (PE) designed control systems are a requirement for their systems and facilities.

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