HMI Software | FactoryTalk View Studio
In the world of Allen Bradley control systems, FactoryTalk View Studio is the software development environment for Human Machine Interfaces. You can think of this software as the HMI equivalent of RSLogix or Studio 5000. FactoryTalk View Studio comes in several flavors of HMI Development suites, incorporates multiple tools, and can support HMI programming of sites of various scale and needs.
FactoryTalk View Studio Machine Edition [ME]
The Machine Edition version of FactoryTalk Studio is the most widely used variation of the software. It is used for programming standalone HMI terminals of the PanelView and PanelView Plus series. We will discuss the hardware a little further in this guide. The Machine Edition software will be deployed onto terminals that will interact uniquely to PLCs on the floor and function without the need for any additional equipment.
FactoryTalk View Studio ME is typically deployed in smaller facilities or standalone equipment such as a case packer, palletizer, or otherwise. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) would usually develop an application that would control their machine without the need to communicate to any hardware external to their system. The ME version of the software makes an excellent choice.
FactoryTalk View Studio Site Edition [SE]
The Site Edition version of FTView Studio is used to deploy distributed applications that will typically control an entire site. However, within the Site Edition suite of HMI software, there are three distinct versions offered to the user. One may choose to create a standalone client that will run on a windows PC. The second option is to create a network distributed architecture that would pull the data from a server application and distribute it to clients across the manufacturing floor. Lastly, the third option involves a network layout that would contain several HMI screens that would be networked together to provide a better experience to the operators on the floor.
FactoryTalk View Site Edition is typically seen at more substantial sites that are capable of supporting highly available network infrastructure. This software package is capable of gathering data from multiple PLCs, lines, and machines. It has features of redundancy, automatically replaces failed servers, and will distribute HMI screens across the floor as configured by the design engineers.
Choosing Between FTView ME and SE for a New Project
The common question we receive and have to clarify for our customers looking to deploy HMI solutions is related to FactoryTalk View ME versus SE. The bottom line is that ME has a low upfront investment, but costs more on a per terminal basis. On the flip side, SE has a high fixed upfront cost in server and licenses to deploy, but is significantly cheaper than the ME alternative. A rule of thumb we use based on the prices of terminals is that if you're looking to deploy less than 10 terminals it's going to cost less on ME; otherwise SE is a cost effective solution. That being said, other factors may influence the selection process. For example, many of our customers would utilize the server for other functions once deployed. They would also shorten the repair time of the SE terminal and would be able to deploy additional HMIs much faster than they could otherwise.
HMI Hardware | Selecting HMI Terminals
The applications built for HMI terminals will require different hardware depending on their nature. From our experience, HMIs will be typically deployed onto one of the three types of equipment:
- PC based HMI solution - an industrial grade personal computer is implemented with Windows or an industrial variation of the Operating System such as Windows IoT or Linux Core.
- Dedicated HMI solution - each vendor (Ex: Allen Bradley, Siemens, Automation Direct) has a specialized resolution that has an HMI software pre-installed on it. These terminals are only capable of running the software developed through the tools of their respective vendors. For example, a PanelView Plus terminal would only run an application built in FactoryTalk View Studio ME.
- Distributed HMI solution - similar to the dedicated version, each vendor, would specify the hardware that is capable of running their distributed version of tools. An example of this would be ThinManager from Allen Bradley. This distributed solution would dictate the specifications of the hardware it requires to run.
PanelView and PanelView Plus Terminals
The Allen Bradley standalone lines of HMI screens are the PanelView and PanelView Plus terminals. These HMI terminals are rugged, capable of running without interruption, and are pre-loaded with the software required to run FactoryTalk View Studio ME applications out of the box. As mentioned above, the standalone terminal is the fastest path to getting an HMI terminal onto the manufacturing floor as it comes pre-configured with the right software. However, the downside of having this capability is the cost of the terminal. Generally speaking, a standalone terminal would cost significantly more than a distributed client.
The panels from Allen Bradley come in multiple variations. Depending on the need of the facility, engineers may choose a board with external buttons, monochrome versus RGB complexion, different widths, different software packages allowing a single or multiple PLC connections, and more.