New IDEC Safety Commander Improves HMI Tablet Usability for Industrial and Safety Applications

March 23, 2023

IDEC Corporation has recently developed the new HT4P Safety Commander, building on the success of the HT3P by incorporating end user feature requests for additional networking and operator interface functionality. The HT4P Safety Commander is an ergonomic device enabling users to securely hold and protect a human-machine interface (HMI) tablet, while providing power, networking, and hardwired emergency stop (e-stop) and other operator interface devices. OEMs and automation designers can now provide flexible and safety-rated operator interface options for equipment, robotics, collaborative robots, automated guided vehicles (AGVs), autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), and other manufacturing system applications.

Bringing tablets to the factory floor

Industrial operations personnel have long been constrained to using specialized HMIs mounted on fixed control panels, or dedicated teaching pendants. Modern consumer-grade tablets offer a better visualization solution, especially for data-intensive industrial internet of things (IIoT) applications, and they can also offer instant viewing of drawings and manuals, videoconferencing, and reports. But they simply are not made to withstand industrial conditions.

Now, the Safety Commander family of devices provides a ruggedized way of deploying HMI tablets to deliver many convenience and productivity benefits, in an arrangement designed for use on the factory floor.

Enhanced HMI options

The original HT3P Safety Commander provided a lockable, ergonomic, and sturdy way to secure HMI tablets. It included charging provisions, along with a hardwired e-stop and a 3-position hold-to-run enabling switch, so designs could integrate tablets in compliance with ISO/IEC safety standards and requirements. Many OEMs and end users have used this device to great advantage, and some have requested even more features to expand its usefulness for their applications.

The new HT4P Safety Commander builds on these capabilities and has been enhanced with:

Larger size: The HT4P can now hold tablets ranging from 10-inch all the way up to a 13-inch (whereas the HT3P accepts 8- to 11-inch tablets) using adjustable grippers, so users can take advantage of more display real-estate and greater CPU processing speeds. In most cases, the larger the tablet screen size, the greater the price advantage compared to using a traditional fixed-mounted touch panel.

Wired networking: While designers may still choose to use Wi-Fi for their tablet, there are many applications where electrical noise or other conditions make wireless unsuitable. Now, designers have the option with the HT4P to use an on-board wired LAN combined with a USB-PD connection, providing stable communications and 30W power charging simultaneously. A USB/RS232C/RS422 converter option is also available. External shielded cables with connectors are available for the HT4P in lengths of 5m, 10m, 15m, and 20m, making them suitable for almost any application.

Hardwired non-safety switches: The HT4P now has three on-board mounting positions capable of providing standard or custom arrangements of hardwired pushbuttons, illuminated pushbuttons, and selector switches. In addition, a guard is available to protect against inadvertent operation of the e-stop button.

The HT4P maintains other key features, such as the ability for the tablet to be used in vertical/portrait or horizontal/landscape orientations, by both left- and right-handed users, with a hand or shoulder strap to minimize fatigue. A wall-mountable bracket is available, and the device can also be placed on a desk for easy viewing. The device has been tested for drop resistance up to 1.2m, and it offers IP54 protection from water splashes, dust, and dirt. It operates in temperatures ranging from -10DegC up to +35DegC or more, depending on configuration. Clean room compatible parts are also available.

Adding industrial-grade safety to tablets

The IDEC HT4P Safety Commander lets OEMs and equipment designers take advantage of modern and familiar tablets acting as HMIs located close to machinery, and it eliminates the need to develop or use dedicated and less flexible devices. As with all its products, IDEC offers free tech support for the HT4P Safety Commander, with no service or support contract required.

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