Q: What is CorsairHMI?
A: A “Human Machine Interface” (HMI) or an “Operator Interface” Development and Applcation Software Package.
HMI or Operator Interface software is used to enable a human operator to monitor and interact with industrial equipment. The equipment could be manufacturing a product, treating water, opening doors in a jail, or controlling the temperature of a building. Frequently the equipment includes one or more PLCs – Programmable Logic Controllers. Operator Interfaces can be computers running operator interface software. The human operator uses the computer to view what the PLC is doing and instruct it as to what needs to be done. The computer may be known as an OIT (Operator Interface Terminal) or HMI (Human-Machine Interface).
System integration firms typically deliver complete control systems. This includes the equipment packaged into enclosures, entering a program into the PLC, and developing the operator interface. Well-known operator interface software includes products from Wonderware, Intellution, and Rockwell Automation. These programs are very versatile. They can talk to a wide variety of equipment. In their effort to be all things for all people they have become extremely complex, expensive, and difficult to use, often requiring specialized training. Other operator interface programs have appeared that provide sufficient functionality at greatly reduced price and complexity. CorsairHMI is a program of this type.
Control system integration is a complex task requiring structured methods for project execution. These methods contribute to the project’s design, procurement, deployment, and maintenance. The Corsair program differs from other interface software in the degree to which it supports system integration. It brings a comprehensive structure to all phases of the work.
Q: How Mature is CorsairHMI?
A: The predecessor to CorsairHMI was a C language program written for Square D as a part of the prototype work for the PowerLogic circuit monitor. Additional experience was gained with developing sortation conveyor systems for the United States Post Office (US Patent 4711357).
In 1987 CorsairHMI was offered to the public. At the same time a specialized interface was developed for use in corrections (jail and prison) applications. The first installation was touch-screen control of the doors in a county jail. Multiple computers were networked to multiple PLCs to produce a system where everyone could see all the doors but each building had a limited scope of control. The next industrial applications were in water treatment and mining. It was upgraded from DOS to Windows and Linux was added. The availability of a special license option makes CorsairHMI unique as a corrections interface.
Since then CorsairHMI has been used for many different industrial and commercial custom applications, with many causing CorsairHMI to become more Powerful and more capable.
Q: How easy it to Install CorsairHMI?
A: CorsarHMI is a portable application that can be run from a USB drive. A complete installation can use as few as 5 files that are copied onto the computer’s hard drive. There is no ‘install’ and no ‘uninstall’. There are no changes to the Windows registry. It does not use the .NET Framework. The program is removed from the computer by deleting the files. There is a license file that enables the features that the customer has purchased but the program does not lock itself into a particular computer. There is no copy protection.
The Corsair program is less than 10 megabytes. It includes the development system and all drivers. Development and Runtime are not separate as they are in most interfaces. Development tasks can be performed while the interface is running.
Q: What Operating Systems can CorsairHMI be used with?
A: CorsairHMI is available for 32 bit or 64 bit Windows, 32 bit or 64 bit PC Linux, and ARM processor Linux. Corsair Model files developed on any version of the program can be used unmodified on any other version. A developer who has purchased two versions of Corsair can test a Model on a Windows PC and then copy it to an ARM Linux box. He can then modify the graphics using the Linux machine and copy the file back to the Windows PC.
Q: What about Graphics?
A: Corsair supports normal graphics primitives including lines, rectangles, polygons, arcs, and splines. It has bitmaps, bar graphs, trend placements, and some specialized types like tanks and bins. Bar graphs can be arrayed.
All graphics can be edited from within the Corsair program except bitmaps. They can be done with Windows Paint.
Graphics developed for one screen resolution can be rescaled for another.
Many elements can be imported from DXF files.
Images can be imported for for Photo-realistic elements.
Q: Are Drivers included? Fees?
A: Corsair drivers are included with the program, no extra fees. It supports several variants of the popular Modbus protocol. It has other drivers to work with Allen-Bradley, General Electric, and Siemens PLCs. Specialized drivers are used for other devices. Most drivers have one or more data monitoring windows to aid in the use of the driver. PLC drivers include a tool that can be used to monitor and set the PLC time of day clock.
Q: What Can I Print from within CorsairHMI?
A: CorsairHMI supports a large variety of printouts that can be done to paper or to a file. The Manual printout has several proposes. It can be used to print information for submittal to an engineer for approval during a construction project. It can print information for maintenance. It can document communications network architecture. Most importantly, it is used to coordinate the work of the CorsairHMI developer with the person that is doing the PLC programming.
Q: Is CorsairHMI Web Enabled?
A: Yes. The Corsair program can be used to generate dynamic web pages of interface screens. These can be viewed from any HTML-5 compatible browser including a cell phone. No ‘App’ is needed on the phone. There is no need for IIS or Apache as CorsairHMI is a web appliance which does not need any other hosting software. Silverlight or Flash are not needed. There is no extra work to develop a web application. The Model is created normally and then web hosting is enabled.
Q: Does CorsairHMI support Emailing of Alarms?
A: Yes. The Corsair program can send email messages when alarms are tripped. These messages can appear as text messages on a cell phone. It includes a scheduling system that determines who gets called at what times.
Q: What are CorsairHMI ” Sheets ” ?
A: Sheets are an alternative to graphic screens. Sheet data is text data in a row and column format. It can be printed, exported to a CSV file, or transferred by the Windows clipboard to another program. Sheets are a unique feature of the Corsair software that accomplishes tasks that are very difficult with other programs.
Q: Does CorsairHMI support Trending and History Review?
A: Yes. Corsair supports different methods to score and view historical data. Trends are used by operators to evaluate how a process is running. Plotted history data can show what happened for a defined period of time. The ‘Turn Back Time’ feature of Corsair graphic screens allows an operator to see past values in a format that he is familiar with. SQL event logging is used to keep alarm history data.
Q: What is CorsairHMI’s ” Plantwide Interface ” ?
A: CorsairHMI’s background in corrections has led to its many specialized features for Plantwide Interface. This is a system where everyone in a manufacturing facility can see everyone else’s interface yet each department can only control the portion of the process that it is responsible for. Opportunities for plant wide interface are revealed when an integrator listens to facilities radio traffic. When packaging calls milling to find out what product is running today, two people are distracted. When maintenance is called in on a problem the maintenance foreman may be interested in alarm or data history. The foreman may want to know how many tons they ran on the previous shift. An operator may call his foreman to find out the meaning of what he is seeing on the computer screen. The foreman may want to know what time the line started this morning. All these issues are simplified with plant wide interface where everybody is ‘on the same page’.
CorsairHMI has features and a pricing structure that make plantwide interface much more practical to implement than other interfaces.
Q: Can a developed CorsairHMI application support more than one system or application at one time and can they interact?
A: The Corsair interface supports up to 100 models at one time. A company may have plants in LA, Chicago, and Boston. Each plant has its own Corsair model that is used on a dozen computers at the plant. There is a computer at the St. Louis headquarters that runs 4 Corsair models. 3 are copies of the plant models. The fourth is a data summary view that totals production data from the 3 plants. This computer serves web data out on the company’s VPN so that management people can see interface data anywhere in the world.
Q: Is there an organized menu structure that will let me see all these CorsairHMI nodes or models?
A: CorsairHMI is developing a Global Menu system for used with web interface to a large number of Corsair nodes. A railroad may have equipment at a large number of signaling systems in several states. Each system uses an inexpensive ARM-based computer. The Global Menu system provides a single point of web access to all of the systems and flags which ones are in error conditions.
Q: What is MBHR?
A: The Corsair MBHR system provides a proven way to link the plant floor to the office. It can utilize an extended version of the Modbus protocol for high speed interface data communications with minimal network traffic. MBHost is the data server, MB Remote is visualization client.
Q: Does CorsairHMI support Operator Login?
A: Yes. Corsair has its own operator login system that could be used instead of the operating system login. Login can be with the keyboard, with a touch screen scramble pad, or with an RFID badge.
Q: What are the CorsairHMI ” Corrections Features “?
A: CorsairHMI Corrections features include specialized drivers for institutional intercoms and video camera switching equipment. There is a unique ‘door’ data type that has been refined and proven with over 25 years of corrections use. Corsair includes a guard tour system.
Please see The Corrections Application White Papers.
Q: Does CorsairHMI support Text Terminals?
A: Yes. Corsair can display text data on ANSI (VT-100) text terminals. This was originally developed as a secure way to send meal count data to a kitchen that had inmate workers. The Corsair program can be used as an ANSI terminal emulator if desired.
Q: What is CorsairHMI’s ” Streaming Serial ” ?
A: Streaming serial is a one-way data transmission between two Corsair interface computers. One could be in a nuclear power plant and the other one hooked to the web for at-home monitoring by maintenance people. It is impossible to transmit data into the power plant. This is a hardware solution. It does not rely on any software for its security.
Q: What is a CorsairHMI ” Automatic Feature ” ?
A: Automatic features are features of the Corsair program that are available with no work needed by the Corsair developer. These features are important because they provide value at no extra cost. They include quick trends, web hosting, alarm summary, and Ether/IP device configuration.
Q: What are CorsairHMI ” Experts ” ?
A: Corsair Experts are system integration tools that are built into the Corsair program. Most of these tools are available with other software but not typically with an operator interface. The Corsair advantage is that they are part of the interface so they can interact with the Model database. They include:
1. The TCP/IP Expert
2. The SQL Expert
3. The FTP Expert
4. The Ether/IP Expert
5. The ASCII Expert
6. Data Source Diagnostics
7. Data Source Register Monitoring
8. Comms Trace
Corsair’s TCP/IP Expert contains:
1. A subnet ping scanner
2. Open Port Detection
3. Name to IP and IP to Name
4. A wide range pinger
5. Variations of BOOTP
Q: What is CorsairHMI’s ” Ether/IP Expert ” ?
A: This rapidly evolving tool is used for parameter monitoring and entry with devices that use the Ether/IP protocol. Corsair does automatic detection of equipment and extracts available parameters. Maintenance electricians can use it for functions like adjusting the trip current on an electronic motor overload.
Q: Does CorsairHMI support ” Geolocation ” ?
A: Yes. Corsair’s GPS Areas and GPS Markers features are designed to develop systems that are location sensitive. Position data can come from a NMEA compatible GPS receiver. One application is for the operating permissions of a Corsair computer to change automatically with location.
Q: Does CorsairHMI support ” Engine Monitoring ” ?
A: Yes. Corsair has provisions to interface to the control bus that is part of most large engines. It can display and log engine data.
Q: What are CorsairHMI ” Tag Arrays ” ?
A: Conventional interface software uses Tags for variables. Each tag has a type that determines the bit count and format of the data. Tag types can be integers, bits, floating point, or strings. CorsairHMI supports a variety of tag types. It has no license limits on tag counts.
Each Corsair tag is actually an array. An array has a specified size. The size is an index (element) count. Most tags use the default size of one. If an integer tag has a size of 100 the tag consists of 100 integers from index 0 to index 99.
Arrays greatly reduce the total number of tags that are needed for a project. The operator can see all the values in the array with a single entry in a Corsair sheet.
Corsair program blocks can be used in scripts to do operations on tag data. Most blocks have the capability to work on an entire array of data in a single operation or to be able to loop through the array one element at a time.
Q: What are CorsairHMI ” Session-Indexed PLC Tags ” ?
A: A jail may have three computers running Corsair software. The Model database contains a list of sessions. Each computer corresponds to a different session. Tags can be session indexed. If there is a session-indexed integer tag starting at Modbus address 40001 the first computer sees the data at that address, the second one sees the data at 40002, and the third one sees the data at 40003. This form of indexing is unique to Corsair. It is a powerful tool for plant wide interface applications.
Q: What is a CorsairHMI ” HOA Data Type ” ?
A: CorsairHMI supports a special structured data type called ‘HOA’ for ‘Hand-Off-Auto’. It simulates a 3-position panel switch with a lighted handle. This is commonly used for control of motors where interlocks occasionally need to be overridden.
Q: What is a CorsairHMI ” Alarm Data Type ” ?
A: Corsair’s alarm data structure can be used in plant wide systems to implement single-point alarm acknowledgement.
Q: Can CorsairHMI utilize Sounds?
A: Corsair can play .WAV sound files when an alarm is tripped. The sound can operate a signal to key a paging system or a radio.
Q: Does CorsairHMI’s support ” SQL Logging ” ?
A: Yes. CorsairHMI can log records to an event database using SQL. Events include alarms, changing set points, operator logs, and other things. Operators can enter notes into the event database.
Corsair includes a viewer that can be used to view but not change event records. It has many options to filter what events are displayed. Event data can also be accessed from SQL-compliant software like Crystal Reports. Some reporting requirements can be met using Corsair’s internal report generator.
Q: Is CorsairHMI finished? Are there any upgrades planned?
A: CorsairHMI is ever growing based on customer and market needs and requirements.
So while certain features and capabilities are being worked on now, others that may occur are not always premeditated.
Special Drivers can be commissioned for a Fee.
There are plans for some internationalization features for Corsair. One is to let the developer enter text in more than one language. The operator could select the desired language at runtime.
When there is customer demand, CorsairHMI will be modified to optionally run as a Windows Service (or as a Linux Daemon).
One item in progress is event logging to a binary file to avoid the need for an SQL database in small systems.
Q: Can CorsairHMI be customized?
A: Yes. CorsairHMI has capabilities to make it appear to be a proprietary product from the developer.
Special Drivers and Function blocks can be commissioned for a Fee.