In this video, Dr. Julia J. Jürgens, software engineer at Lenze, and Stefan Niermann, sales manager at INOSOFT, talk about joint projects and the very successful, long-time cooperation.
Initially, fifteen years ago, the cooperation concerned combined automation devices with a PLC and an HMI on board. Lenze used a customized version of VisiWinNET Smart, the user interface of these devices (under Windows CE), as an OEM solution.
The two companies continued their cooperation in the following years, so that today Lenze’s most recent HMI solution is based on VisiWin too. EASY UI Designer, a tool that helps to create web-based HMIs, is integrated into Lenze’s engineering landscape.
The new VisiWin runtime system is even more powerful, flexible and platform-independent since it not only runs under Linux or as a Docker container but can also be integrated into firmware, as it is done at Lenze.
In this year’s Product of the Year award conferred by Computer & Automation, Lenze EASY UI Designer won the first prize!
Click here to watch the video of the award ceremony
For their fully automatic traffic cone management system, Buchhaus relies on the drive technology built by Lenze and a controller that has an HMI on board. The software developed by the visualization expert Inosoft is platform and hardware independent; it can be parameterized without any programming skills and is intuitive to use. Users and technology partners alike benefit from greater flexibility and faster processes.
Recognized easily by everyone, the red and white cones that divide construction sites from the moving traffic do not exactly delight drivers when they catch sight of them. Since the very presence of those usually means that traffic is rather going to be standing than moving. However, the cones are vital for road safety. They protect workers on the construction site and road users from accidents.
It must therefore be ensured that traffic cones are put in the right place and at an appropriate distance from each other. Traditionally, this job is done by a team of workers on a truck and is both labor-intensive and dangerous. Fortunately, though, this job can be automated. The Buchhaus company based in Krottendorf, Austria, specializes in traffic safety systems and has developed a fully automatic traffic cone management system X-Cone, which is installed on the cargo bed of a transporter.
The procedure is simple: The driver of the vehicle loaded with cones sets the distance between the cones using a touchscreen installed in the driver’s cab. After that, X-Cone places and collects the cones autonomously.
From the early beginning, Buchhaus chose automation expert Lenze as a partner for control and drive technology as well as HMI. As a result, X-Cone is efficient, ensures safe cone placement and is already successful on the market.
Last year, Buchhaus decided to further develop the system. It was their objective to redesign X-Cone to increase precision and responsiveness.
The new servo inverter i950 manufactured by Lenze gave the impetus for this development; it requires nothing but a single cable for a 230V AC connection with the motor. The One-Cable-Technology (OCT) allows to drive servomotors and rotary encoders via a single connection, saving space and costs. Moreover, with the c520 Motion Controller, a new generation of controllers became available. Special feature: an on-board HMI. With FAST UI Runtime for web-based HMI already installed, there’s no need for additional hardware.
The HMI is implemented using EASY UI Designer, which is a part of Lenze’s EASY Engineering Tools portfolio. FAST UI Runtime and EASY UI Designer are based on the visualization software developed by Inosoft—VisiWin 7, which is characterized by openness and use of standard technologies. Due to the OEM capabilities of VisiWin 7, Lenze could easily adapt the visualization software to their environment and specific needs.
The main advantage of VisiWin 7 is that it also allows to quickly and easily create Web UI (browser-based) applications for mobile devices. In other words, the software does not need to be installed on the end device. The HTML5 technology allows to display the user interface on any browser. The web capability reduces time and money for the rollout of new versions as well as for maintenance of the tool. In addition, users are free to choose the end device. They can operate their system on any mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
“The web-based HMI created using EASY UI Designer was a key point,” says Johann Vollnhofer, application engineer at Lenze. “It played an important role in Buchhaus’ decision in favor of the whole concept—that is, using the i950 servo inverters alongside the new c520 controller and the v450 web panel.”
The option of accessing the system via a tablet was attractive to Buchhaus. In day-to-day use, X-Cone is operated via the industry-strength, multi-touch enabled v450 web panel built into the driver’s cab. Moreover, the mobile function is extremely helpful when “teaching” the system during startup and also when setting up the cone arrangement on the truck. It allows the operator to stand beside the automatic traffic cone management system and to adjust the axis positions via the tablet, for example. In addition, the web-based software makes remote maintenance possible.
VisiWin 7 offers even more advantages. One of them is platform independency. On the server side, it means the software can run on different platforms, which in the case of Buchhaus and c520 is Linux. On the client side, i.e. on the front end, it also supports different systems—the classic Windows PC as well as iOS and Android devices.
Basically, VisiWin 7 supports Responsive Design. It means that the user interface adjusts for the end device it is displayed on. The individual screen views are simulated by the graphical editor during development. The developer can see directly how the user interface will look like when it is displayed on a smartphone or in a browser on a laptop screen.
Responsive Design is an important feature since end users are always presented with the optimal user interface for their device. However, initially, this feature proved to be a challenge for Lenze who took over the task of creating the HMI application for Buchhaus using EASY UI Designer. “We were used to the previous version—VisiWinNET Smart,” Vollnhofer says. Responsive Design, though, required a totally different way of thinking. “In the classic approach, we would use absolute positioning when adding UI elements to screen views, whereas in Responsive Design, their positions are dynamic.”
Due to the intuitive concept of VisiWin 7, which EASY UI Designer is based on, this challenge was quickly overcome. “The system supports the user in many tasks such as automatic alignment according to the screen size,” says Vollnhofer. “You don’t have to know how to do responsive design in HTML. The graphical designer does it for you.” With the graphical designer, What You See Is What You Get.
And thus, all parties involved benefit from the system. Lenze engineers could easily implement a simple HMI for Buchhaus using the intuitive Easy UI Designer based on VisiWin 7—without external assistance.
The easy-to-use interface allows the end-user in the driver’s cab to configure the system with a few clicks. The driver can, for example, set three different distances and switch between them if required or choose on which side the cones will be placed or collected. Important monitoring information such as speed and battery charge condition can be viewed at a glance. The HMI is also used for teaching, i.e. the adjustment of the X-Cone solution to a different vehicle. In addition, two cameras that support the operator were integrated into the HTML5-based HMI.
Buchhaus offers their customers a powerful and modern turn-key solution. The installation of the system is easy and the overall costs are reduced due to streamline cabling while the web-based approach ensures flexibility and hardware independency.
With an increase in efficiency of 25 per cent, X-Cone can now place or collect up to eight traffic cones per minute. What’s more, Buchhaus can implement projects more quickly. This is due to centralized data storage in the c520 controller, which allows to easily duplicate data using an SD card. Buchhaus can now provide many more customers with their automatic traffic cone management system. This may still not make car drivers feel enthusiastic when seeing the red and white cones. But it does help improve road safety.
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