Typically I don’t do unsolicited free advertisements for companies or websites, but I really need to make an exception here for Advanced HMI.
Advanced HMI provides a FREE open source HMI platform that runs on a PC. While they do sell some added components, the basic HMI and drivers can be downloaded off of their website (www.advancedhmi.com).
To develop applications, you will need to install Microsoft’s Visual Studio, which is also free. The only caveat with developing applications is that the full source code needs to be passed along to the end user, as it’s licensed under a GPL (General Public License) model.
There are a variety of drivers that come with the basic software. For my first attempt at an HMI, I used an Allen-Bradley ControlLogix PLC, but I used the Emulator since my hardware has been experiencing Tornado issues.
I am NOT an experienced Visual Studio user, but was able to get my application up and running in about the same time that it took to program an HMI in FactoryTalk View or other packages.
While I did purchase pretty much all of their added components (they are REALLY inexpensive), the only components I used in the example above were the potentiometer knobs and stack light.
I have known about Advanced HMI for a while, Automation Training uses one for their classes. I had always planned on test driving the software, but really didn’t have a solid reason until the tornado took out my building… Now I have a student coming in just after I move into my new place, and he will need to use the emulator, so I really had to get this up and running quickly.
I have some big plans for using this software (don’t I always? :-/). I have done quite a bit of training using simulators, and this software allows me to develop application specific models for students. As a matter of fact, if I get reasonably competent with this software, I may teach a class on it myself. It would be a great add on to my PLC classes.
One issue I haven’t answered yet is how easy it will be to animate objects, moving them across the screen. I know you can control visibility easily, and I think I saw a feature to make a sequence of images appear to move, but this isn’t true animation like there is in HMI development packages by AB and Siemens, and even Weinview/Weintek. I’m sure it can be done, since after all its open source and Visual Basic makes the properties available, but I will need to do more study/research.
Maybe I’ll even take a class!