Parker Electronic Controls delivers scalable, customizable, high-performance graphical displays with Storyboard Suite
Parker Hannifin’s Electronic Controls Division designs and manufactures
electronic controls for global manufacturers of agricultural and construction
equipment, buses, trucks, and recreational vehicles.
The Challenge: Create a scalable GUI for a family of HMI displays – quickly
When designing and developing HMI displays for material handling electronic controls, there are a lot of requirements to consider. With a wide range of platforms and hardware, displays for electronic controls vary in size, dimension, and technical capability. For Parker’s Electronic Controls Division, the design challenge was to deliver a responsive and attractive graphical user interface that would best showcase the capabilities of Parker’s new displays to mobile equipment manufacturers.
When Parker set out to create the graphical user interface for the display family, they were evaluating design software that would meet the following requirements:
- Easy to use: quick to learn, simple workflow for creating a functioning prototype
- Support Iterative Design: easy to update graphics and customize the design
- Integrate with the Platform: support for communication with the system
- Scalable: a unified tool and scalable design across multiple platforms and applications
The Solution: Use Storyboard Suite to quickly prototype design concept
After working with another GUI framework and upon recommendation from an engineering department within Parker Hannifin, the team downloaded the 30-day trial of Crank Software Storyboard Suite for evaluation. Using the provided samples to get a feel for ease of use and scalability of the tools, they opted to move forward with Storyboard Suite and bought a license after only a brief evaluation.
One of the biggest reasons Parker was quick to select Storyboard Suite for their project was the ease of use. The team had previously been challenged to get a graphical display in front of their client without significant effort and time. Using Storyboard they were able to efficiently design a GUI based on their client’s existing application GUI. This allowed Parker to showcase the value and capability of their electronic control display and put a functional prototype in the client’s hands within days, and they were able to do it without needing final hardware. Due to Storyboard’s WYSIWYG design environment and the ease of updating artwork, Parker’s client was able to take the GUI and customize it on their own to suit their needs, which was a key requirement for the project. Features in Storyboard Suite, such as Photoshop Re-import functionality, make it possible for customers to update the look and feel of the design quickly and with ease.
The Test: Passing the performance test
Creating a GUI quickly is valuable, but creating a HMI experience that can withstand system load and heavy processing is critical. Storyboard uses Lua API, a Lua scripting interface, to give developers access to Storyboard Engine to get/send data, send events, and manipulate controls on the UI. Because Storyboard separates the UI from the LUA scripting, processing is decoupled which leads to greater performance.
Using Storyboard Designer to recreate the UI and LUA to communicate with the system, the team was able to improve the event capturing and update the display in a responsive manner. This test proved that Storyboard could easily handle the load and performance requirements.
The Payoff: Working with software created by a team who really understands your technology and needs
“We are really pleased to be working with you (Crank Software). We often have to spend so much time explaining our issues to vendors, but we really appreciate how quickly you "get it". You seem to live and breathe this, and it is a genuine pleasure working with you on our project. We really have an appreciation for how well you know your product and the myriad of devices it works with.”
~Michael Coyne, P. Eng., Software Developer, Parker Hannifin Canada
Even the most intuitive and easy-to-use software requires time and experience before teams gain expertise and feel truly proficient. To help reduce this learning curve, Crank Software provides a library of videos, samples, and tutorials, which Parker used to quickly get functioning HMI prototypes in their client’s hands. This fast time to show was valuable to Parker to help them quickly showcase their technology without sacrificing function, aesthetics, or performance.