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Touch panel improves productivity of existing plants in the chemical industry

The interfaces between human and machine often offer areas for optimization in automated production. In particular, increased efficiency in the operation of plants contributes to an improved overall result in production.

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Solutions of mechanical engineering in filtration technology for mechanical process engineering for continuous processes and batch production cover very large application areas in the chemicals industry, pharmaceuticals, food technology and environmental technology. All machines and plants used there excel by high performance and robust design. Visualization solutions with short response times further optimize these complex machines, resulting in an acceleration of the production process.

In the present application in the chemicals industry, the existing control units of the operated centrifuge were adapted to the state of the art in order to increase the speed of the plant. BARTEC, a supplier of safety technology, replaced the old panel on site by the state-of-the-art operator interface POLARIS touch panel, which is suited to use in areas with an explosion hazard. An update of the centrifuge control was absolutely necessary. Centrifuges used in the chemicals industry are part of a highly flexible production system, and they are continually reconfigured for the preparation of new recipes. But the excessive response times when entering new commands impeded the operator at work and slowed down production. Here, the critical problem was in the serial processing pattern of the entry panel. Data import, control, key processing and image display were executed in a sequence of individual steps. The response times corresponded to serial logic and very narrowly limited the acceleration of the production process understood as a more efficient interaction of human and machine.

A more comfortable and faster operation system was necessary, but without changing the existing plant, and it had to be suitable for use in an area with an explosion hazard because the materials processed in the centrifuge contain solvents. For this reason, the customer was looking for an option for the further development of its existing plants without high engineering effort. As a specialist for industrial safety technology for use in areas with an explosion hazard, BARTEC had the fitting solution and offered, in addition, the factor of flexibility. The panels for the Ex area can be integrated into existing plants without major change effort. The POLARIS touch panel concept always meets the demand specific to the customer.

Nearly real-time operation under Ex conditions
On the 19.1-inch POLARIS Professional Panel PC with Profibus interface, communication, image display and key processing work simultaneously. At each subsequent protocol inquiry, the status of all parameters is up to date. Communication processes occur in the background, new entries are directly accepted and integrated. As a result, the logged comparisons demonstrate that the previous response times of one second after reconfiguration belongs to the past. The corresponding feedback occurs immediately. All requirements are executed virtually immediately after entry, and the goal of near-real-time operation under Ex conditions has come within our grasp.

A small change to great effect
All panels of the POLARIS series are certified according to ATEX, IECEx, InMetro and Ghost R for worldwide use in gas-and-dust Ex areas and come in a standard variety or with modifications requested by the customer. Equipped with an integrated Windows XP Embedded, besides the remote desktop connection via Ethernet, the use of BARTEC’s proprietary software BMS Graf Pro 7 is possible. In the present application, a decision was made for BARTEC’s proprietary solution, particularly in order to further use visualization projects from the past with minimal engineering effort. The transfer of projects can be accomplished both using the FTP protocol via Ethernet and using the BARTEC USB stick. Besides, BMS Graf Pro Runtime 7 offers many more advantages, for example integrated user administration. Directly on the touch panel, multiple user profiles with the corresponding authorizations for access and relevant tasks can be set up. This covers individual screens as well as entire process levels or input fields. This speeds up access for the individual operators enormously and virtually excludes operator errors because each user can only access his/her own areas. In these, the respective user is competent, and time-consuming clicking through many levels becomes obsolete. Besides the positive change toward more safety in handling, process documentation has also been improved. By means of its operation log, BMS Graf Pro Runtime 7 delivers a report of all actions such as fillings, beginning and end of an action and entries of the operators independently from the nature of the events.

Everything in view
The inserted 19.1 inch displays with LED background lighting are true-color enabled. They display any number of colors. Furthermore, the device is equipped with SXGA resolution (1280×1024 pixels). The display is also enabled to process older visualization projects. It identifies the resolution of the project and scales it automatically to the correct size so that it can be viewed optimally on the screen. As a result, the operating personnel now works with a screen with quick visual perception that is convenient and reliable in its operation, also thanks to the new touch function.

All data is transferred to the control system or guidance system or imported from there via Profibus. The Profibus card developed by BARTEC provides this connection. As an alternative for communication, a serial variant by Modbus/RTU or Host Link is available. In addition, Ethernet-based communication via Modbus/TCP is possible.