How to get on the road to Smart Machines: The ABC’s of Machine Setting

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Designing a smart machine means making a lot of choices – from the biggest parts down to the push-buttons and types of interfaces. A machine builder has to take many elements into consideration in order to build the best machine for their customer. In this new blog series, we will take a look at some of these elements and the various options available to OEMs.

Fix the basics

When it comes to determining the best place to put the settings on a machine, it’s hardly a one-size-fits-all situation. Depending on the machine’s function and the demands of the operator, the settings (and a simple interface) can take various forms and be located in different places, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. 

Let’s look at an example scenario: Mike is an OEM who is building bread baking machines. The dough mixer can run at different speeds to provide the right consistencies for the breads, and the oven obviously also needs to adapt to the temperature and baking time for each specific type of bread. Mike needs to design a machine in such a way that the baker will be able to control these variables in an efficient and simple manner. What are the solutions at his disposal and on what criteria should he base his decision?

Here are your 4 options…

Solution 1

Solution 1Within the panels – drives, timers, and relays

Pro: Only trained maintenance engineers have access so no issue of parameters being mistakenly changed

Con: Your operator can’t change the parameter by himself, so your flexibility is reduced


Solution 2

Solution 2: On the panel door – HMI

Pros: All the settings are on one screen, accessible by operators; you can secure the screen with a password if preventing mistakes is more important than flexibility

Con: The price of an HMI (and its programming engineer) is sometimes too high for a simple machine


Solution 3

Solution 3:  On the panel door – square cut-out timers, dedicated drive interfaces

Pros: Settings accessible by operators; cheaper than an HMI; high-end settings compared to round cut-out products

Cons: Several interfaces are needed if the machine requires different settings; square cut-outs are costly for OEMs and panel builders who don’t use laser cutting


Solution 4

Solution 4: On the panel door – round cut-out timers, potentiometer

Pros: Settings accessible by operators; the cheapest and simplest solution to implement, with low cost and standard 22 mm diameter holes, the same as for a push button

Cons: Several interfaces are required if the machine needs multiple settings; only the simplest functions are available

After consulting with his main customers, Mike finally decides to go for solution 4 and a round cut-out timer on the panel door. What would you have done in his place?

Here is your chance to talk to the expert…leave your questions and comments below.

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  • Thomas Schragen

    7 years ago

    My choice would be the solution 2.
    From my point of view, It offers the most flexibility, user friendliness and avoids operator mistake due to UI localization with an acceptable price tag.
    On top of that, with the latest release of Vijeo XD 2016 SP2, the operation log feature has been added which will allow the EU to record any kind of operations and thus create documentation that is often needed in the F&B business but even more in the pharmaceutical industry.

    • Gregory Bouchery

      7 years ago

      Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for your courage as a first commenter in this discussion. I agree that the choice is usually complex and that we often need to include other features as a selection criteria. For machines requiring a logging feature, HMI is indeed a nice fit.

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