Displays add color to simplify operator tasks

  • 08-Jan-2014 11:25 EST

Capacitive touch input allows operators to wear gloves.

For decades, off-highway vehicles typically had one paint color outside and monochromatic displays or gauges inside. Color displays are now transforming operator environments as human-machine interfaces make it easier for operators to understand complex tasks and diagnostic information.

“Color displays (HMIs) have brought complex functions like advanced fault detection, predictive maintenance, and data logging to life,” said Eddie Phillips, Marketing Manager, Electronic Controls and Software, for Eaton’s Hydraulics Business. “Machine operators have a simpler operator interface, allowing them to focus on the task at hand. Displays can provide real-time graphical feedback on the operating status of a machine, making it easier for the operator to make changes to improve the overall performance and efficiency of the machine.”

The graphical information data on liquid crystal displays improves efficiency for maintenance technicians as well as operators. These screens can provide diagnostic data, directing attention to the parts that have failed. That’s especially helpful when technicians must carry parts into the field. Operators and technicians continually want more data, causing a spiraling trend for designers.

“As the amount of information on the display rises, higher resolution displays are required,” said Kirk Lola, Business Development Manager at Parker Hannifin Corp.’s Electronic Controls Division. “This allows more information and graphical images to be displayed. In addition, using a display that shows operating condition along with error and status messages greatly reduces operator confusion.”

As equipment makers employ more LCDs, they’re also working to help operators interact with the information on those screens. Touch input has become is fairly common. Initially, resistive technology was used in applications where gloves are not required.

But as capacitive sensing technology advanced, equipment makers utilized it to make it possible for users to interact with touch screens while wearing gloves. Capacitive sensors are evolving so operators can touch multiple points while wearing gloves. Many of these systems also sense proximity, so operators don’t actually have to touch the screen.

“The major trend in touch screen technology, driven by the consumer applications, is the increased adoption of Projective Capacitive (PCap) technology,” Phillips said. “PCap technology, which is found in the Eaton VFX displays, has considerable advantages over resistive technology. It has better optical clarity and the support of gestures.”

Along with improved efficiency, the combination of touch input and LCDs is lowering overall costs. Touch screens can replace a number of buttons and knobs, cleaning up interiors while improving efficiency.

“Touch screens allow a simpler, and often lower-cost instrument cluster by removing many physical buttons and input devices and replacing them with virtual touch buttons on the display,” Lola said. “In addition to the cost saving, the virtual buttons can have different text and styles based on user preferences, languages and the operating mode of the machine. Parker’s IQAN MD4 display can be programmed in a wide variety of languages, including Cantonese and Russian. This dynamic configurability would be impossible with physical buttons.

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