Keyboards and mechanical buttons used to rule the shop floor, with big footprints, tangled wires, and limited reprogramming capabilities holding back operators. But there’s a change going on in factories across the world: they’re moving toward a more automated future and they need control panels, PCs, and industrial PDAs that keep up. Touch screens allow greater communication across the factory floor, help management monitor productivity on the floor, and reduce the time spent operating interfaces. Keyboards and buttons require more time to interface with and greater hand-eye coordination. It may not seem like much time to an average user, but to factory engineers counting how many seconds each task requires, every use adds up.
The move to resistive touch screens as the preferred HMI in factories across the world has to do with a thing called Industry 4.0. Described as “manufacturing’s second act,” it will use the Internet of Things to put machines in communication with the products being made. This kind of networking already exists, but the goal of Industry 4.0 is to connect isolated networks across the entire shop. Industry 4.0 remains a vision of the future, but its principles of interconnected automation and easy interfacing are guiding many factories’ technology choices.
One of the consequences of greater integration and automation is big data: factories can collect unprecedented quantities of information from the shop floor. Touch screen PCs and control panels make it easier to manage data, control machine tools, and communicate in the factory.
The switch to touch screens is not always an easy or simple one, and if you’re supplying factories with new HMIs, you need to be aware of the conditions on the factory floor. Workers are busy and don’t have time to worry about something as delicate as the capacitive touch screens you find on your phone. The shop floor environment is harsh, and resistive touch screens come into contact with dust, heat, chemical solvents, and even makeshift tools used by workers to operate, especially industrial PDAs that require a stylus signature.
Systems integrators need solutions that will stand up to the job, for example, resistive touch screens from A D Metro are resistant to contamination and electromagnetic interference and are economical enough to be used in industrial applications. However, in environments with harsher conditions or for clients who want to keep down replacement costs, an even further ruggedized touch screen may be required.
The ULTRA touch screen, an improvement on their standard resistive touch screen designed by A D Metro, meets the demands of the shop floor. This form of touch screen is impervious to water and contaminants like dust and chemical solvents. It’s spalling resistant, spark retardant, and resistant to abrasions and scratches. If your clients need touch screens that workers can sign with a screw driver, talk to a manufacturer that delivers tough resistive touch screens like A D Metro.
The factory floor is changing and workers need more intuitive, easier-to-operate interfaces without sacrificing the durability that mechanical interfaces offered. Resistive touch screens are the answer the automated factory needs.