Embedded Touchscreen Interface for Industrial Pallet-Wrapping Machine

Industrial Pallet-Wrapping Machine Touchscreen InterfaceWith its stretch-wrapping technology, this manufacturer sparked a global packaging revolution that changed the way pallets of products are unitized for shipment. Recently, they decided to develop an embedded touchscreen application featuring an attractive, easy-to-use interface to control one of their pallet stretch-wrapping machines, which can  weigh as much as 2800 lbs (1270 kg) and handle loads of up to 5000 lbs (2267 kg).

Challenge

Our customer wanted to move the machine’s existing user interface from a text-based LCD display with hardware keys to one that featured a more efficient and intuitive touchscreen to shorten the learning curve for operators comfortable with smartphones. ICS was asked to develop the interface and core of the application remotely, without access to the embedded hardware platform. Compounding the difficulty of this request was the fact that the proposed UX design was complex, requiring smooth graphics effects that would run well on inexpensive hardware without OpenGL support.

Solution

The application includes multiple wrap patterns, precise machine control, and extensive efficiency data capture. When ICS joined the project, the manufacturer already had an existing UX design in the form of a web-based application so ICS’ UX team carefully reviewed the proposed design revision, performed workflow analysis, made some key recommendations before implementing it using the Yocto framework for the embedded hardware platform. It was built with Qt 5 and QML for the UX with C++ code on the back end to expose the hooks to the hardware interfaces.

Results

With Qt's cross-platform support, ICS was able to develop and run the application on a desktop or tablet device for demonstration and prototyping purposes, which allowed the customer to see and try the interface before the embedded hardware platform was available -- a convenience they greatly appreciated. ICS also carefully documented the system so the customer’s developers, who were relatively new to Qt, QML and embedded Linux,  could assume the ongoing development and maintenance tasks. With ICS’ assistance, the manufacturer produced a new application that is innovative, attractive, user friendly and more efficient than previous versions, and brought it to market quickly.

9/22/2017