Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Andy Preston, UK Drives Product Manager, ABB writes: Are variable-speed drives’ manufacturers designing their products for aliens?

I only ask because humans are notoriously fussy when it comes to interacting with machines – we don’t see very well in low light conditions, so like to have our displays bright and easy to read. We don’t like esoteric numerical codes, preferring to read information in plain language. And we are suckers for easy-to-push buttons that take us to where we expect to go.

We also like pretty pictures – with each worth a thousand words, so they say, complex information displayed in graphical form is very attractive to human eyes. 

So why do the designers of variable-speed drives, in particular the keypads that control them, not take more notice of these attributes?

Well, some at least do. One of the latest keypad designs, produced by ABB for its latest VSDs, has a left and right key, allowing numbers to be edited digit by digit, or words to be edited character by character. This gives very rapid and intuitive editing for all parameters and text values, while also making it easier to move through the assistants.

And that’s not the only ‘human friendly’ feature. The screen also has an adjustable contrast, offering white text on black, black text on white and several other contrasts - no more eye strain as you attempt to make out the words in a dimly lit control centre or plant room.

The built-in advantages are evident right from the beginning. Take start-up – once you have been guided through the basic settings by the start-up assistant and reminded to save a backup, the user immediately sees home screens, which can be easily edited to display the information and parameters they require.

What’s more, each of the home screens can hold up to three easily selected parameters, which can be displayed in various formats - history trend graphs, amplitude loggers, peak load detectors and load profiles.

Speedy, easy to use, clear, unambiguous – it’s what we humans like.

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