Our everyday lives are full of machines: smartphones, cars, computers, coffee machines, elevators – the list could go on and on. Most points of contact with machines have become so commonplace that we no longer even perceive them as such.
For this reason, many people do not think about how we interact with these machines. At RAFI, we do. As a leading manufacturer of HMI systems, we deal with this precise moment every day – at the interface between human and machine. Our goal is to make this moment a lasting positive experience.
We see ourselves as a solution provider. That means you get your human-machine interface with everything that goes with it. From touchscreens to command and signaling devices, tactile switches and electromechanical systems such as joysticks, to electronics, software, and housings. At RAFI, you get everything from a single partner in the form of platform solutions in absolutely top quality and with fast time-to-market. From the initial idea to the finished product.
Customized to your requirements, our innovative platforms are ideal when you need individual operating concepts for machines and components. Our portfolio covers touchscreen technologies and computer platforms, as well as multi-functional operating elements such as joysticks or rotary encoders. At every stage of the process, we support you as a solution provider. We help you transform your concept into a unique product. We can also take care of development, production and all services.
Our control and signaling components have proven their worth in a wide range of applications over decades. Many of the human-machine interfaces on the market today would be unthinkable without them. Yet we continue to develop innovations. Whether Plug&Play or IO-LINK, our products set new standards. Incidentally, all our standard components are available not only directly from us, but also from many trade partners worldwide.
RAFI tactile switches are ideal for applications in the automotive industry, mechanical engineering, signaling systems, and measurement and control technology. They have been established for decades in these fields due to their quality and safe switching. The same characteristics also qualify them for our HMI systems. Here you can find a wide range of tactile switches for your project. They are also available worldwide from our trading partners.
Simple digitalization wherever people work – even in remote or manual workplaces. This idea was our starting point. Now, with KIS.ME, we offer you the innovative solution for just that. You can make your company more transparent in no time, for example by linking and optimizing manual processes, without any additional programming or management consulting. Connect, set up, and go. This is what we mean by: “Keep it simple. Manage everything“. Try it out now!
As a technology leader, we have high quality standards for ourselves and our products. That is why we produce our HMI systems as far as possible ourselves. Whether touch sensors, printing, metalworking, electronics manufacturing or plastic injection molding – at RAFI we use state-of-the-art machines to attain the best possible quality. For printing, we use flatbed screen printing machines, fully automatic cylinder printing machines, digital printing machines, tampoprint machines, and hot stamping machines. When working plastics, we rely on hydraulic and fully electric injection molding machines as well as various special processes for molding around glass, two-color and multi-component injection molding. We machine metal chip-free on CNC machining centers, and we also use various bolt insertion and welding techniques. For our touch sensors “Made in Germany”, we use laser structuring of the ITO layers, fine conductor printing to connect the sensor points, electrical connection technology using the hot sealing method, vacuum lamination of the cover and sensor glass, as well as optical bonding between the touchscreen sensor and the display. Finally, we also assemble the systems ourselves – either manually, or semi and fully automatically. You can find out more about electronics manufacturing in the EMS section.
The term human machine interface, often abbreviated to HMI, means a function or component that allows people to control and interact with machines. These interfaces are now often touchscreens – also in the industrial sector. We speak of complete HMI systems when, in addition to the actual interface, the housing, the software, and other control devices, such as pushbuttons and switches, are also mapped.
What does a human machine interface consist of?... More
As already mentioned, the touchscreen currently dominates the market for HMI devices. But an interface between human and machine does not always have to be a capacitive screen. Control components, keyboards, joysticks or joycoders can also do the job. The choice always depends on the individual task. For example, if blind operation is essential, a simple switch may be just as suitable as a touchscreen with force detection and haptic feedback. With increasing complexity, for example in automation, an HMI panel with touch certainly makes sense. These high-performance HMIs often have to map a multitude of functions: data visualization, different control levels, multiple input options. Of course, the advantages of a touchscreen outweigh the disadvantages here. Despite this, touchscreens are usually still combined with additional elements, such as a keyboard, electromechanical system, or other hardware components in order to meet the high demands of safety and usability. During development, it makes sense to consider what is already being used in practice.... Less
The usability and safety requirements of the HMI differ depending on the area of application. That’s why it’s worth taking a closer look at some industry segments or sectors to understand what differences there are in human machine systems. Long-term availability is an important consideration in development, design, and purchasing. Especially in the touch sector, series are often discontinued as soon as new versions are on the market. Here, a reliable partner is invaluable. That is why RAFI makes the sensors for its own touchscreens. This not only ensures quality, it also provides our partners with years of planning security.... More
Vehicle technology is extremely diverse. From ordinary motor vehicles to highly developed tractors and snow groomers, every vehicle needs the right HMI. In the automotive sector, multimedia and assistance systems are increasingly important alongside safety. It seems that some cars have a touchscreen, pushbutton, or switch on almost every square inch of interior surface. However, the current trend is towards reduction and concentration of functions on an HMI. US electromobility pioneer Tesla has already demonstrated this with its Touch concept. It will be interesting to see how the conventional automobile industry will react to this in the future.
In agricultural technology, user-friendliness is naturally also a top priority. But here, individual requirements are much more varied. After all, different devices have to be controlled depending on the field of application. That’s why modern tractors often use HMI panels that combine industrial touchscreens with joysticks, control components, and membrane keyboards. Control components are integrated in armrests, where ergonomics also plays a central role in the development. This is because the HMI must be fatigue-free to use.
In special vehicle construction, the defining topics are similar: safety, ergonomics, and user-friendliness – with a high level of individual character. That is easy to explain. A snow groomer used to prepare snow parks in a ski resort has completely different requirements of its HMI than a snow plough used to clear regional trunk roads. Customized development is the rule for these mobile machines. Close consultation with the customer is needed to determine whether joysticks, touchscreens, control components, or keyboards are the right choice. But even here, combinations of many different elements are standard.
Safety is the number-one priority in healthcare. Electromedical devices must not have any unforeseen downtime. This can literally be a matter of life and death. That is why the licensing and qualification processes in this industry are lengthy and intensive. As blind operation is often essential during surgery and examinations, medical technology usually uses elements that provide haptic feedback. A recent development is that these can also be media-resistant touchscreens with force detection. They are mostly used in combination with control components such as pushbuttons and switches to leave nothing to chance.
Another common challenge is the choice of the right materials. The devices have to withstand permanent cleaning with cleaning agents that kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and are therefore often aggressive.
The finish should of course also be right to make it as easy as possible for the operator to use the HMI. The best technical machine is no good if, for example, the surface is not seamless where it needs to be. This applies whether the machine is ultrasound, surgical or respiratory equipment.
Productivity, efficiency, process optimization – in industry, results count. That goes for mechanical and plant engineering, electrical engineering, or in the field of measurement and control. So first and foremost, a human machine interface must reliably start up the machines and systems. For example paper and printing machines, leather and textile machines, or industrial robots. Especially in robotics, mobile HMI panels, known as smartpads, are increasingly common, acting as industrial-grade tablets. They allow the operator absolute flexibility in operation.
In addition, human machine interfaces in industry often perform tasks that go beyond pure control. The user can access information about states, view processes, and control various tools on the HMI. The display of all applications is often structured in the form of a customizable dashboard. Software, processor unit, and operating system work hand in hand in the background. Experienced HMI providers often develop and supply these elements as part of the package. This can even include connection to the SCADA system.
One aspect we haven’t addressed yet is design. It plays an increasingly central role in virtually all areas. One machine is not the same as the next. With today’s state of development, differentiation is often only possible via the design. However, it is not just about the color and shape of the exterior, but also about the UX (“user experience”) design. The user’s experience is optimized, and operating errors are minimized at the same time.
HMI systems as part of SCADA systems
What does HMI have to do with SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition)? SCADA systems are used for central control of a plant or entire factory. They often have various HMI systems integrated to control and monitor individual machines, plants, processes, or devices. There is basically no such thing as a SCADA system or control system completely without human machine interfaces.
Technology to manufacture HMI systems
In order to produce a human machine interface, you need extensive practical knowledge in development and production. Different areas must work hand in hand to achieve a satisfactory end result. Integrating all stakeholders completely into a smooth process is one of the biggest challenges. This is true especially because many HMI manufacturers outsource certain sections of the process. In contrast, RAFI is happy to manage all the steps from the initial idea to the finished product in-house at the customer’s request. To be able to guarantee this, we have built up an unparalleled manufacturing depth over the years: touch production, SMT assembly, THT assembly, metalworking, plastics processing, tool shop, test equipment manufacture, and many other departments. All this guarantees perfect quality of the individual components at our locations. RAFI supplies the complete human machine interface with housing, control components, touchscreen, joystick, electromechanical systems, software, operating system and processor unit.
Human and machine in the future
Of course the HMI market is continuously developing. The control of a human machine interface via facial expressions, gestures, and speech is becoming more and more common, especially in the consumer sector. In the industrial sector, experience shows that such developments take longer because more regulations and approvals apply in order to ensure safe operation. After all, extremely easy speech control, familiar from various voice assistants, could have potentially disastrous consequences in a production plant. As already mentioned, one machine is not the same as the next. That is why HMI systems vary so much.... Less