Lou Szabo, Pepperl+Fuchs Business Development Manager for industrial HMI solutions, is interviewed about 2013 trends in industrial HMI systems, new HMI products - including larger sizes of industrial displays for hazardous areas, and the new VisuNet XT industrial operator workstation, which is designed for use in extreme environments.
A Lamar: Hello, this is Andy Lamar with Pepperl+Fuchs. Today I am joined by Lou Szabo, who is the Business Development Manager for our HMI product line. Lou, we have a lot going on this year with the launch of several HMI products as we continue to grow this part of the business. First, could you tell everyone which products we've recently added to our expanding portfolio?
L. Szabo: Well Andy, we're enhancing the HMI product line across the board with larger industrial displays. From 22-inch, 16 x 10 widescreen formats, the size will continue to increase in the coming years. And we've built some very large industrial displays for hazardous classified areas. Currently, the SlimLine, Edge, our GMP, and aseptic platforms support this larger format, in addition to the standard 19-inch and 15-inch models.
A. Lamar: I'm looking at the aseptic operator interface terminal, and it looks very impressive. Could you tell me some of the features and benefits of this aseptic OIT, along with some other things that this unit has, that the others don't?
L. Szabo: One of the benefits of not having to remove any of the components during the installation phase is that the installation time is cut down to about 30 minutes. Once the hole is cut, essentially you slide the unit in, tighten up the latches connecting the fittings, and you're ready to go at that point in time.
Most of the other systems require you to drill 28 to 30 holes around the opening, take out all the electronic components, put the shielding on the back, tighten up all the bolts, then remount everything and make sure you rewire everything correctly. Not needing to remove components is a tremendous advantage to customers, as they are spending only 30 minutes to an hour on installation vs. 6 to 8 hours with other people's units. What that means is that on larger installations where it's 20 or more units, the HMI installation is taken off of the critical path on the project, which then allows you to bring the project time in, allowing you to have better ROI and more efficiency.
Additionally, because the unit is easy to open, because there is no RTV involved, if we use third-party thin clients or KVMs inside—if a customer specifies that, and perhaps the thin client itself needs to be reset because it's not working for some reason, then it's easy to open the door, reset the unit, seal the door back up, and be in production again. The alternative would be to scrape out all the RTV, basically reset the unit, close the door, set the RTV, and wait 24 hours for the RTV to cure. So you can see there is a lot of downtime involved with those other types of systems.
A. Lamar: What are some of the visualization trends taking place in the life sciences?
L. Szabo: Well, from a hardware supplier trend, we're seeing the MES expansion into a client-server base of virtualization architecture begin to transform over into the controls side. The distributed control systems now are adopting this technology, and therefore, the customers are requesting it. In the past, where you may have had a thin client or client-server architecture for the MES system out in the plant area, now what you're seeing is that the KVM extenders are being replaced by a similar client-server architecture supplied by the DCS company.
What does this mean to a customer? One of the main drivers for going into this virtualized architecture is the reduced cost of hardware and also the desire to extend the refresh cycle. Instead of every five years, you can extend it beyond five years to eight to ten years. So, if I'm looking at a desktop, a $1000 dollar system vs. a $2000 dollar desktop system, I've cut the cost in half. If I'm looking at a unit out on the plant floor, now it's not a $1000 dollar system but is more on the order of, anywhere from $6000 to $20000 dollars. I'm looking at the complete mounting system, whether it's on a pole with an arm on it or mounted in a wall. It could be in a hazardous area or a classified area; then that unit becomes more of a $6000 to $20000 dollar unit.
In those cases, if I don't have to touch the units, so I don't have to worry about the KVM failing, or if I don't have to worry about the PC architecture because I'm going with the client server architecture, then I don't have to get inside those units. In fact, in our case, we've even brought reset switches out so that the thin client could be reset externally. You never have to touch the inside of the units. In those cases, that provides even greater savings for customers in the life sciences because there is no real centralized control room with the life sciences markets. Typically in the biotech area, they are growing cultures in Class 100 cleanrooms, and therefore, these units are embedded in the cleanroom. They are typically expensive units so those are things that you don't want to have to refresh every two to five years.
A. Lamar: Next, I want to talk about the fact that we are opening up a brand new facility in Houston, TX—our Solution Engineering Center. Can you talk about what benefits this new facility brings to our customers in Houston as well as in the Americas?
L. Szabo: Great question, Andy! The Solution Engineering Center in Houston is in addition to our facility in Twinsburg, Ohio. It is part of a string of facilities we have around the world. These facilities essentially take our standard HMI products, combine them with the customer's desires to enhance certain features, and provide them with a certified unit. For North American approvals, if a customer needs ATEX approvals, we can provide ATEX or IECEx approvals on the unit.
As an example, we have customers that want to put a printer in a hazardous location. We have the capability of putting together systems where a printer can be embedded in a purged enclosure and then placed into a hazardous area. We also have the ability to make mobile carts that have the HMI attached to them. These carts can be wheeled from room to room with wireless interfaces. We also have the ability to go to a large, 32-inch all the way up to 60-inch industrial display and package these up. In many cases, the life sciences people on the MES side like to see the production, held in real-time, displayed in the corridors between these different work areas. Large industrial displays allow them to take a look at that data in real time and take action on any bottlenecks or reroute work orders, that sort of thing. It's all part of enhancing the workflow process for customers. Again, we have a facility in Houston and we also have a facility in Twinsburg for the Americas marketplace.
A. Lamar: What else can we expect in the near future from our HMI product line that you are most excited about?
L. Szabo: Andy, that's a great question! I don't know where to begin! I think the first thing is the large-screen touchscreens that you'll see coming out from us. They are larger than 22 inch, migrating to the 1080 platforms, typically 16 x 9 and will also have the resistive touchpad in the keyboard area. Another area that we are enhancing is offering a variety of thin clients. Some people have the Dell Wyse thin clients that they require, or HP thin clients, or other third-party thin clients. We have the ability to integrate these thin clients, which will become more standard within our product line. Finally, we have the XT ruggedized workstation coming out in about two weeks.
The VisuNet XT is a brand-new product, brand-new platform for us. It's designed for rugged outdoor use, in either super-bright high-temperature areas or extremely cold areas. Temperature ranges from -40 °F to +142 °F, so you can see it has a very broad temperature range. It has an Intel® Core™ i7 processor and a 64-bit Windows operating system.