Episode #35: Can I Mix And Match Controllers And HMIs From Different Manufacturers?

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The Motion Control Show

We're continuing to talk about mixing and matching products from different manufacturers.  This time we're talking specifically about controllers and HMIs, but remember, we're actually talking about suppliers, not just manufacturers.  I'm Corey Foster at Valin Corporation.  Let's see what we can learn.

As I just said, suppliers, not manufacturers.  We distributors are part of your supply chain.  We don't have to look at just one manufacturer.  Your distributor works with multiple manufacturers.  And remember the same question I've been asking for several episodes now: What's more important, your time or your money? 

There are some compatibility issues to be aware of.  Do your HMI and controller speak over serial?  Over Ethernet?  Or over some fieldbus like Profibus or DeviceNet?  Are they using EthernetIP?  Now, you may or may not be aware of this, but EthernetIP actually has two versions.  There's one that's specific to a major manufacturer that a lot of companies follow.  Then there's the industry standard as set out by the ODVA guidelines.  But the real question is, have you made these work together before?  Any single one of these?  If you haven't made these two work together, then that could be your biggest challenge in your project.  In each of these, serial or Ethernet or Profibus, you have to have a driver.  For Profibus and DeviceNet,  those are your drivers.  Your HMI will have a driver for that, but there are different protocols that could be used over serial; different protocols that can be used over Ethernet.  If they say Modbus, is that Modbus serial?  ModbusTCP over Ethernet?  Or is that Modbus RTU?  Make sure they're communicating the same way.  A lot of manufacturers will have manufacturer specific drivers, so if you're using Manufacturer A’s controller, you have to have a driver for Manufacture A in that HMI in order to speak to it.  So, there's definitely some compatibility in there that you have to have.  The driver comes with the HMI, so you don't buy that separately.  In some cases, you may be able to do that, but the HMI will come with drivers, maybe hundreds of drivers included in that HMI.  But just make sure that the one that you need is in there.

Then we can talk about functionality issues.  If you’re using just one manufacturer, there may just be one software package to be used with both that HMI and that controller, and that makes it really nice.  If you're using separate manufacturers, then you're going to have an HMI software package and a controller software package.  But if you have just one software package, it's great and it’s probably going to have a sample project you can start with.  Now, if you're using two manufacturers, remember, you might be getting them from one supplier, your one distributor, or your one integrator.  But, if you've agreed to use two different manufacturers, getting those two to talk together if nobody's done it before, it could be the longest and most frustrating part of your project, almost guaranteed.  Now your supplier may have already done it.  They may have already gotten them to communicate before, because they've used them on other projects and they may already have a sample project that you can start with, and that's very beneficial.  Remember, there's a difference between the manufacturer and your supplier.

Hope this helps in trying to decide whether to mix and match your controllers and HMIs.  I’m Corey Foster at Valin Corporation.  Reach out to us at TheMotionControlShow.com or this email address here. We're happy to help.

If you have any questions or are just looking for some help, we're happy to discuss your application with you.  Reach out to us at (855) 737-4716 or fill out our online form.