You may have heard about people using Visual Basic (or Visual Studio .NET) to create Human-Machine Interface applications and asked the question “why ?”. With so many off-the-shelf HMI software packages available, why would a user consider using Visual Basic? For some applications and needs, using Visual Basic (or Visual Studio .NET) is cost-effective in the long-run and provide additional flexibility and choice that may be required to meet operational or customer requirements.
If you are doing an application requiring thousands upon thousands of points in a complex, multi-user system with thousands of screens, Visual Basic probably is not your best choice. Although it is very easy to learn and is flexible, the cost of managing and maintaining your own application may not be lower with Visual Basic than with an off-the-shelf package. However, if you are doing an application that is large, you may still find yourself using Visual Basic to write custom ActiveX controls or .NET Components to provide functionality add-ins to your off-the-shelf software. Also, some off-the-shelf packages are now using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) as their scripting language.
If you are doing an application with fewer than 500 to 1000 points and you have multiple workstations that the application must run on, there are significant cost advantages to using Visual Basic. First, when you write an application in Visual Basic, you own the application. This means you can distribute your compiled application royalty free. If you do use any components such as ActiveX control (or .NET Components) graphics, alarming systems, trending systems, or PLC drivers, many of these controls have either no distribution licensing fees or licensing fees in the few hundred dollar range instead of thousands! Third, learning VB is easy. There are 3 million people in the world who know VB - so help is easily found. For the system integrator or equipment manufacturer who sells multiple systems on a regular basis, the increased profits from owning their own HMI solution outright can be significant. You can even turn your application into and OPC Client or Server. To learn more about if VB can help you, call Software Toolbox today at 704-849-2773.