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16 October, 2021

Device adds safety functions to tablet-based HMIs

01 July, 2021

The HMI manufacturer Idec Apem has developed a device that converts tablet computers into industrial HMIs with hardwired emergency stop (e-stop) buttons and safety functions. The HT3P Safety Commander is designed to address the growing use of tablets in industrial automation settings.

Traditionally, industrial personnel have needed to stand at fixed control panels, or use dedicated handheld touch panels or teaching pendants. But for many applications, operators need more detailed and sophisticated HMI capabilities as they move around their installations.

Developers are increasingly choosing to use tablets as visualisation and control devices because of their convenience and productivity benefits. Tablets offer high-resolution displays, powerful computational abilities, extensive memories, Wi-Fi networking and Bluetooth wireless connections, all at a relatively low cost. They can also be used view drawings and manuals, to create reports, and for videoconferencing.

In many cases, tablets can avoid the need to locate PCs on a plant floor and offer the option of adding IIoT functions to industrial systems. They can provide more capabilities than dedicated teaching pendants, which are expensive and can be difficult to use. But, according to Idec Apem, previous attempts to incorporate tablets into industrial automation applications have been awkward, or have compromised on safety.

The company claims that its Safety Commander overcomes these challenges. The device incorporates a hold-to-run button in compliance with ISO/IEC safety standards. There is a hardwired e-stop button with an LED indicator, as well as a hardwired three-position enable switch.

The hand-held device has adjustable grippers that accommodate tables with diagonal sizes from 8-11 inches using a key-locking system to keep the tablet secure. A patented technology allows the tablet to be rotated to any vertical/portrait or horizontal/landscape orientation, and it can be used by either right- or left-handed people.

The device is IP54-protected against water splashes and dirt, and has been drop-resistance tested to 1.2m. A USB Type-C port is provided for charging the tablet.

Idec says that its Safety Commander provides a practical way for operators to use modern tablets with industrial machinery and equipment.

Typical uses for the tablet holder are expected to include robots, AGVs and industrial machinery.

Japanese-headquartered Idec is a global supplier of industrial automation and control products, including PLCs, HMIs, safety products and other automation components. In 2017, it acquired the French HMI and switching components specialist Apem for $266m, to create one of the world’s largest producers of HMI components, panels and systems, with combined sales worth more than $500m.

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