ally someone operates a touch screen with a screwdriver, destroying the unit and causing expensive repairs and downtime.
What can we learn from these examples about controls
which supposedly meet the industry’s demanding standards?
Despite best intentions and procedures, busy or inattentive
staff cannot insure that tactile control surfaces remain free of
contamination transfer. These same limitations apply to the
wide variety of tactile controls used in pharmaceutical manufacturing - it’s an inevitable problem with tactile controls,
whether keys of keyboards, buttons or more complicated
human-machine interfaces that they can never be dependably
or reliably cleaned or be free from contamination transfer.
Because people must touch them. And carelessness or error
can damage or destroy moving parts of tactile controls.
What are viable alternatives to tactile controls and other
traditional HMis? Touchless gesture recognition, voice recognition and holographic HMis.
Gesture recognition uses predetermined motions, intui-
tive to some, tracked by one or more cameras connected
to electronics to provide input to them. Common examples
range from video games to retail applications for interacting
with displays in stores to view different products or order
them. Refining this technology to reliably operate specific
equipment and comfortably enter data may require detailed
programming, adjustment of recognized gestures to suit op-
erational parameters and training operators to use gestures
understood by the equipment to complete intended tasks.
Voice recognition employs spoken commands to control
electronics. Current common uses include vehicle systems
that allow drivers to say a destination and be shown directions on a nearby screen or dictating to a handheld to create
a draft e-mail. Anecdotal evidence suggests voice recognition
systems can respond differently to voices of different people
or even the same people who are very tired or have colds.
In addition, ambient sounds such as loud or intermittent machinery noises can interfere with the effectiveness of voice
recognition, not to even mention commands spoken by people using different languages or using any language poorly.
An important consideration in applying this technology to
industrial equipment is that it is insensitive to context; for example, if basic commands such as “on” or “off’ as related to
starting or stopping equipment are included in voice recognition vocabulary, someone in range’s saying “move that pallet
off the platform” may have unintended results.
MORE EXAMPLES OF TOUCHLESS TECHNOLOGY
Another touchless way to deliver commands to CNCs or
other controls of manufacturing equipment involves merely