Pepperl+Fuchs Blog

A Rugged Operator Workstation for Oil Rigs

Posted by Andy LaMar on Fri, May 31, 2013

VisuNet XT HMI is designed for rig floor use...

At the 2013 OTC show in Houston, TX, Pepperl+Fuchs launched the VisuNet XT, which is our most rugged and innovative industrial operator workstation to date.

VisuNet XT operator workstation for oil rigs
In this podcast, HMI Portfolio Manager, Brian Alvarado, discusses the features and applications for the VisuNet XT operator workstation. Brian also notes why there was a need for the XT in the marketplace and how this rugged workstation for oil rigs originated.  

Podcast transcript

A. Lamar: This is Andy Lamar with Pepperl+Fuchs. We have some exciting news, because at this year's OTC show in Houston, we are announcing the launch of our VisuNet XT operator workstation. The VisuNet XT is our most innovative and ruggedized industrial monitor to date. So with that being said, joining me is Brian Alvarado. Brian is our portfolio manager for our HMI product line. Brian, can you tell us how the VisuNet XT operator workstation originated, and also explain what makes it different from all of the other industrial workstations currently in our HMI portfolio?

B. Alvarado: Well, a number of things had to fall in place over the last couple of years for Pepperl+Fuchs to decide to take on such a challenge in building this type of product. First of all, for the last four or five years, we've really expanded our HMI portfolio to meet a number of customer applications, but we didn't have anything specific, I'll say, for the oil and gas market. Also, we have built up a number of relationships here in Houston, TX, with our new sales office that we have down here, as well as expanding our customer base.  And as we've come across a number of these oil and gas applications, specifically for rig floor use, we realized that the products we currently had maybe fit a small percentage of the applications, but really didn't meet the demand that the customers were asking for, for what I'll call a rig floor operator workstation. What we had to do was take in feedback from our customers, and working hand-in-hand as a partnership, we came across the specific requirements for this type of operator workstation, and spent over the last year and a half in development.

What separates the VisuNet XT from the rest of our HMI products is that it was specifically designed for rig floor use. We had to design it with a rugged cast aluminum enclosure to deal with the heavy shock, vibrations, and impact that this type of HMI device would see on a rig floor and also in transportation. We had to make it suitable for outdoor use. With that comes a sunlight readable display, which is something we haven't had in the past. Also, the flexibility of having a high-performance PC as well as a number of different LAN connectivity options with wireless connectivity, fiber optic, and dual port Ethernet.

The VisuNet XT operator workstation was a challenging product for us, and we're very happy to announce (at the OTC show) that we are ready to go to market with this.

A. Lamar: The VisuNet XT has a lot of great features and benefits. Could you go over some of those key features that really make the VisuNet XT a viable product within its market?

B. Alvarado: Other than having a high-performance PC, there are a number of features we had to incorporate to make this a viable product. A big consideration is weight. We have two different display sizes for the VisuNet XT - a 15-inch display and a 19-inch display. Having a cast aluminum housing making it ruggedized is important, but we also had to make it portable. For our 15-inch display we come in at around 27 pounds, and for the 19-inch display we come in at about 38 pounds. The overall goal was to be under 40 pounds for both solutions and we were able to achieve that. Another benefit that I mentioned before is that this has to be viewed in the outdoors and sunlight, so we have a high-bright LED backlit display. We also have an optically bonded touchscreen, which is almost a requirement now to view and see the display in high ambient sunlight.

We have a number of accessories to accommodate this as well. We have a sun shield and a yoke mount option as well as a 100 mm VESA mount or even a panel mount option. There's a lot of flexibility from an applications standpoint. One last thing that should be mentioned is that this is a product suitable for hazardous locations. We recognize that this product will be used all over the world, so we pursued all the certifications that would allow it to be installed all over the world. We have ATEX certification for Zone 2, we have IECEx for Zone 2. We also have Class I Division 2, which is a UL certification, and for Canada we also have Class I Zone 2.

A. Lamar: Could you also tell me what some of the intended applications are for the VisuNet XT?

B. Alvarado: A typical application would be to have some type of monitor on the rig floor to help visualize the position and activity of the drill, where the main control is being done in the doghouse or the control room of the rig. This would be done over a KVM topology. The problem with this is when the server would possibly go down. Then you would lose all connection to the monitor on the rig floor. To fix this, customers are asking for a full PC, and typically a powerful PC, so that if the server would go down, you can still maintain control with this type of solution. That's what we've developed with the VisuNet XT. This is a full operator workstation. We have a four core Intel i7 processor operating and running as a full operator platform running Windows 7, and that's the core of the VisuNet XT. All in all, we're very excited about this development, and we hope you have a chance to see this product, either at our website or at one of our road shows.

A. Lamar: To learn more about our line of HMI products, visit

Topics: Applications, Industrial Monitors/ HMI, Approvals/ Certifications

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