This paper presents a novel approach for the configuration and runtime usage of user interfaces or Human Machine Interface (HMI) systems based on research being conducted at the Distributed Systems Group, Loughborough University. This research is investigating the replacement of conventional PLC/PC systems with a Component Based control approach suitable for the automotive engine manufacturing industry. HMI (operator interface) systems for production machines must effectively fully support an increasingly complex machine lifecycle involving engineering input from many globally distributed engineering partners. Current HMI Systems are standalone offering poor connectivity and requiring highly specialist skilled personnel to develop and maintain the systems. The goal of Component Based (C-B) systems is to compose machines from modular units with embedded intelligence. The “intelligence” has different functional domains, e.g. sequencing and interlocking logic, 3D virtual modeling, visualization, diagnostics, service and operating interfaces, etc. The underlying framework of the C-B paradigm is a common model system repository where all components are stored. This facilitates visibility of the system common model to all the globally distributed engineering partners involved in a given project. Within the C-B framework, HMI systems are composed from instances of reusable software templates that are targeted at specific user types. User targeted operator interfaces offer a common look and feel that improves usability. The machine’s configuration is achieved by populating a series of HMI templates to produce a complete machine HMI system. A thin-client architecture is used based on server/ client internet technologies that allow the machine HMI to be executed on any internet enabled computer using a standard web browser. It is possible to drive both the real machine and a simulated 3D virtual machine model via the HMI, enabling engineers to be trained on the operation of the HMI prior to the real machine being completed.

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