B&R is “digitizing” traditional rotary switches, function keys, and slides by integrating these directly into the capacitive touch screens of their HMIs (Human Machine Interfaces). The goal is to eliminate grime and dust that usually collects on these mechanical interfaces in order to make it easier to maintain strict hygienic environmental standards in industries such as pharmaceuticals, medical equipment manufacturing, and food & beverage.
As shown in the figure above, the screens will have embedded grooves that will give tactile feedback to operators which allows them to keep their eyes on the operation instead of worrying about what they are actually touching on the HMI.
The ability to dynamically change the function of the embedded switches, slides, and functions keys will allow more of the HMI real estate to be utilized for critical information.
This may catch on in the CNC (computer numerical control) space as most of the space on an operator station for a CNC machine are mechanical buttons and rotary dials. Don’t hold your breath though, old habits die hard. Maybe a vibration feedback like the ones found in iPhones will help this trend catch on.