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The Top 3 Advantages of Affordable HMI's

Advantages of Affordable HMI's

HMI panels are one of the most popular ways to improve efficiency and safety on the factory floor. HMI design has only evolved to be faster, more accurate, and more responsive. When considering what controls to use for your next control panel project, take a look at some of the top advantages that make an HMI a better solution than traditional pilot devices.



HMI’s can range from a 3” monochrome display with keys to a 22” color touch screen. For a typical application, 6” color key/touch screen models are available for under $500. To help keep the cost down even further, some manufacturers offer free software for programming their HMI’s, with extensive product libraries to help you find exactly what you need.


Highly Versatile Communications

Should you have an existing system that you’d like to outfit with an HMI, most HMI options are sure to come equipped with the communications protocol you need. For instance, a Siemens Comfort panel can communicate to Allen Bradley products via Ethernet IP or DF1, to Mitsubishi products via MC TCP/IP or FX, to Modicon via Modbus TCP/IP or Modbus RTU, or to Omron via Lin/Multi-Link protocol. Check your manufacturer's website or print materials to review the broad range of communication capabilities for each product.


PLC NOT Required (but still PLC compatible!)

Just because you have an HMI does NOT mean you need a PLC to be able to connect I/O to the HMI. HMI’s can come equipped with I/O and expandable I/O modules, such as analog inputs and relay outs. HMI’s also allow for some basic programming controls, so the HMI can read, display, and execute functions. Horner’s XL4 series and Red Lion Control’s Graphite series are just two examples of HMI’s with the added capability of built-in I/O.

Additional Advantages

While PLC compability and versatility are a great place to start, there are so many other benefits to affordable HMI's. Below are just a few of the additional advantages that you can gain with an HMI in your price range.

  • Data logging
    • Basic memory cards can record gigabytes of data, which can be accessible through connecting to the HMI (directly with a computer cable or indirectly through a network) or removing the memory card and plugging it into your computer. This log can help review how and when the equipment is running to help find ways to make the process more efficient.
    • More advanced technology can stream information directly to a database. However you gain the data, it's a vital raw material for modern performance measures like OEE (Operational Equipment Effectiveness) and KPI analysis (Key Performance Indicators).
  • Graphics
    • A complex system can be modeled on an HMI screen with the data values displayed beside the device (for example, an entire P&ID can be modeled, animated, and include buttons to control and view which valves are open/closed, the pressure in the line, and so on.)
  • Multiple screen configurations and sizes
    • Hundreds of data points can be controlled and monitored from ONE device, so even the most complex processes can be precisely configured on an easy to use and easy to read display (up to 22” displays). The right size and configuration for your application means no tapping or combing through multiple slides of information to find exactly what the operator needs.
  • Rugged design
    • Rated for outdoor and even hazardous location use
      • A Class I Div 2 outdoor rated (NEMA 4X/IP66) HMI with display and keypad is offered for less than $1,000
    • Remote access
      • Monitor and even control the HMI from your desk or from your laptop off-site as if the HMI were right in front of you. Don’t worry though: this can be set up in your secure network, or even disabled.


How to Choose

There are hundreds of HMI’s to choose from, and it can be overwhelming to find the best match for you. Fortunately the engineering team at PanelShop.com has years of experience with these HMI’s, and we can help pair the right HMI (and price) for your application.

Not sure what software or cables are required or how to set it up? We can work through these details with you to get it up and running. For another simple way to browse and buy some of the industry’s leading HMI’s, build your own HMI panel and options with PanelShop.com’s configurator.


HMI Control Panel Building and More

PanelShop.com takes pride in delivering high quality custom control panels with concept-to-completion engineering support. Whether you know exactly what you need or you're seeking a partner to help develop and accelerate your project, PanelShop.com can help. Call us today or submit a quote, and find out how PanelShop.com offers the best price for the best quality.

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