What is the Best HMI Panel?

How to Choose the Best HMI Panel for Your Application
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The HMI Panel is a valuable tool that is used by operators and engineers worldwide to visualize and monitor the process, provide control targets and set-points, execute programs and initiate sequences, and troubleshoot problems via trends, alarms, and events.

In this article, you will learn:

– What common features to consider when choosing an HMI

– What the differences are in a variety of HMI Panels offered by top manufacturers?

– How to determine which HMI Panel is the best for my application

What is HMI Panel?

HMI is short for Human Machine Interface. Just as the acronym implies, these panels provide a visual interface between the machines, equipment and process, and the operator or engineer.

Most plants use multiple HMI panels in locations that are convenient for the operator, and each is configured to provide the data that the operator needs at that location.

Human Machine Interface (HMI)

How to choose the best HMI panel

I want to select an HMI panel that is right for my application. How do I choose the best HMI panel?

Characteristics of an HMI Panel

1) Display size

The first consideration is the display size. Do I need a panel that has a small screen, like 3 or 4 inches diagonally, or a larger screen, like 15 or 21 inches? HMI panels come in all sizes, typically from 3 inches to 25 inches.

HMI Panel Display Size

2) Touchscreen?

Do I want a touchscreen? Touchscreens are convenient and allow fast response, but they are more expensive than models with only function and arrow keys.

Touchscreen HMI

3) Color or Monochrome?

Do I need color or monochrome? Color HMI panels are vivid and allow for status to easily be shown with colors, but monochrome units are less costly and very efficient for showing a small amount of data, like speed feedback or time left in a batch.

Color HMI vs. Monochrome

4) Resolution

What screen resolution is required to show sufficient graphic object details or allow display of many objects on the same screen?

Screen Resolution

5) Mounting

What about mounting? Should the HMI be flush mounted in a panel? Or on a pedestal? Or be Handheld?

HMI Mounting

6) Protections

What kind of protection does the HMI require? IP67 to protect against splashing of liquids or outdoor installation?

HMI Protection

7) Interfaces

What interfaces do I require? Ethernet? Profinet? Serial interfaces for laboratory instruments, RFI scanners, or barcode readers? And do I require multiple interface types?

HMI Interfaces

8) Software requirement

What are my software requirements? Do I need OPC or a specialized driver to access data from my controllers?

HMI with OPC

9) Custom program?

Do I need to run custom programs on the HMI terminal to support plant operations, like barcode software or inventory application interfaces?

HMI Custom Programs

10) Supports Windows?

Does the HMI need to support Windows and its file system, or will the vendor’s HMI application be sufficient?

HMI Application

HMI Panel application examples

Example 1) A Full-Featured HMI

Now I will look at HMI panels for several different scenarios. Let’s say I need an HMI panel that has at least a 12” touchscreen but can scale seamlessly to other HMI panels of various sizes.

I also want to be able to create HTML-based graphics from within Siemens TIA Portal software and integrate easily with my existing S7-1500 programs.

I need network security built into the panel and have automatic program backup. The HMI panel needs to be high-performance and have bright, clear graphics. I need to connect the panel to the network using Profinet.

What is the best panel to meet these requirements? I see that the new line of Siemens Unified Architecture comfort panel HMI’s can exactly meet my needs.

I think the MTP 1200 is the perfect HMI panel for this application. Even more, the programs written for the HMI panel can be used on MPT panels of different sizes, without modification.

MTP 1200 HMI Panel

Example 2) A Basic HMI

But what if my needs are more basic and my budget is tight? If integration with Siemens TIA Portal is my main concern, then the KTP 1200 Basic HMI Panel is just what I need. Not as advanced as the MTP 1200, but still powerful, fast, and configurable like the Unified Architecture HMI panels.

The KTP basic panels are value-priced but are still rugged and have great performance characteristics.

KTP 1200 Basic Comfort HMI Panel

Example 3) A Wireless Networked HMI

Suppose I have an HMI in a tank farm, and I want an HMI panel that can communicate with my controller wirelessly. Which HMI can I use to meet this need?

Maple Systems has a rugged, versatile HMI panel in an IP65-rated enclosure with Wi-Fi connectivity.

The HMI 5103L has a 10-inch touchscreen, a bright LCD display, and can operate on 24 volts DC for safety and convenience. This is the perfect HMI for monitoring tank levels and other tank farm sensors and equipment in the field.

Maple Systems HMI 5103L

Example 4) Ethernet I/P Connectivity

What if I need to connect my HMI to an Ethernet/IP network, as I would for a Rockwell Automation PLC, and connect a device like a barcode reader for a weigh and dispense system?

The answer may be to choose a PanelView Plus 7 standard model with a 9-inch display to monitor the weighing process.

PanelView Plus 7

If I have the same need but need a fully compliant panel for use in a cleanroom environment, like for a pharmaceutical plant, I can choose the PanelView Plus 7 stainless steel performance model.

And if I need to operate in a hazardous environment, the ArmorView Plus7 model is a perfect choice, with an IP66-rated enclosure that does not need to be mounted in a panel. Each of these terminals supports a fault-tolerant ring Ethernet network topology for reliability and performance.

ArmorView Plus7


In this article, I have shown you some of the most common features of HMI panels, from size to interface possibilities, along with a variety of panel designs from top manufacturers.

So, with all the cool features, a variety of interfaces, and software choices, what truly is the best HMI panel for your application? The answer is the one that best fits your requirements and your budget!

If you have any questions regarding selecting the right HMI panel for your application, add them in the comment section and our automation engineers with 20+ years of experience will surprise you with a detailed in-depth answer to your question.

You can also checkout the Siemens HMI panel mentioned on this blog via links below:

MTP 1200 HMI panel

KTP 1200 HMI panel

If you would like to get additional training on a similar subject please let us know in the comment section.

Check back with us soon for more automation control topics.

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The RealPars Team

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