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Graphical color-display for mobile machinery

Epec (Finland) has developed the EPC-i10 PC-based graphical display. It rund Windows 7 embedded, and features a solid-state drive. The product is part of the company’s portfolio of CANopen connectable devices suitable for mobile machines. The 12,1-inch LED provides two CAN ports: one runs CANopen and the other one maybe used to link the device to a J1939 powertrain network.

MODERN WORKING MACHINES ARE LIKE MOBILE OFFICES: Get instructions via email, explore the production plan, send notifications back to the factory or control room, etc. Therefore, the user interface has to support operator’s daily activities and meet challenging operating requirements that are faced in mobile machines. Different technical and business requirements determine the operator interface of the machine. Besides cost-effective embedded graphical displays (e.g. Epec’s 2040 color display), there is an increasing demand on larger displays that are typical for PC-based systems.   

The EPC-i10 is the now the flagship of Epec’s graphical displays. The core is based on high-end PC technology. An industrial grade solid-state drive (SSD) is used as a mass storage medium. Further, the human machine interface (HMI) has a support for a compact flash card.     

“The construction of the EPC-i10 was designed to withstand high mechanical shocks and vibration,” explained Arto Orava, Epec’s research & design manager. “The enclosure has been tested according to IP65 to withstand dust and moisture that is often present in machine environment.” To ensure reliability, the product incorporates pre-heating that is activated in cold environment.

Graphical symbols and small details of digital maps are visual with a XGA (1024 x 768 pixels) resolution. The resistive touch-panel comes with a special coating, which protects it against scratches.

The HMI device has two CAN interfaces. The interface supporting CANopen is used to exchange data between the HMI and the control system to present process data and alarm messages, setting parameters of the system and for machine diagnostics. The other CAN port can be used for example to collect vehicle data by using the J1939 protocol.

“For optimal use of raw materials, energy and investments the whole production process and separate tasks need to be well planned,” said Orava. “Therefore, mobile working machines have to provide on-line access between higher level systems and between other machines to exchange instructions, results and the general status of the machine.”  The selection of the communication technology depends on the infrastructure of the working site. The introduced HMI supports several wireless network protocols such as WLAN and Bluetooth. For working sites far from the office, the HMI device is equipped with an integrated GPRS modem. The product has dual-SIM card support and the GPRS connection is determined by application software.

“Accurate positioning of mobile machines is crucial for many applications,” stated Orava. “Routes, tracking and location of goods are just some examples.” Therefore, the user interface has an integrated sensitive GPS receiver. Video cameras are be used to assist the operator to observe surroundings of the machine while working. The image can be easily integrated to the user interface and displayed according to the application.

Many aspects like end-application’s complexity or developers’ skills and background affect to selection of programming language and development environment. However, a common requirement is the need for ready-made software libraries to shorten time-to-market and improve quality. The HMI is programmable in IEC 61131-3 languages. It implements the Codesys runtime system by 3S (Germany).
This means, the user can develop the entire machine control system and the graphical user interface with the same development environment. Alternatively, the Epec software platform can be used, if .NET framework is the preferred choice for application development. “Both alternatives offer tested and documented software components to let you to concentrate on application-specific development,” promised Orava.

The Finish company is one of the pioneers for distributed control systems in mobile machinery. Nowadays, the company is specialized on programmable control systems and information systems for mobile working machines and utility vehicles. All products are manufactured in the own factory in Finland. The production lines are highly automated and dedicated processes are in use to ensure high-quality devices.

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