Industrial Computers: Do not Lag Behind

By: Richard n Williams

Many of the environments that an industrial computer has to work in are certainly not suitable for a conventional desktop PC. Many areas in production and manufacturing contain many of the things that will finish off a sensitive piece of electronics like a PC instantly; dust, grime, grease, water, fluids, extreme temperatures not to mention the odd knock from a pallet truck or forklift.

However while industrial machines are designed and built to cope with almost anything they are extremely expensive and suffer from a lack of advanced performance and technology that a conventional PC offers.

Many industrial computers are made solid state (no moving parts) meaning components have to be small and compact. Moreover, industrial computers are usually sealed machines, their design optimised for protection which means components need to be reliable as a breakdown will result in a service engineer being called and the inevitable delays in production this can cause.

Because of these design prerequisites industrial computers run older hardware components many several years out of date. While many of the processes that an industrial computer will control may not require high processing power or the manipulation of graphics many of these machines can be adequate.

However, an industrial computer is designed to last for several years meaning after four of five years of use the hardware could be over a decade out of date.

Whilst industrial PCs are very stable, running ten-year-old technology does mean many manufacturing processes are not being controlled as efficiently as they should be and the time eventually comes when a upgrade can be put off no longer and the industrial machines are replaced costing a fortune in replacement units and production downtime.

This has always been a catch-22 for industry trying to weigh up the cost of upgrading compared with the possible improvements to production an upgrade will bring about.

A solution to the problem is now apparent thanks to several manufacturers of industrial computer enclosures. They have been designed and manufactured to house a conventional off-the-shelf desktop PC yet still provide the robustness of a bespoke industrial computer.

These enclosures are made from all types of material including food-grade stainless steel and can be used in all hazardous and hostile environments that a conventional industrial computer can go from dust and explosive atmospheres to wet rooms, furnaces and freezers.

As well as being far less expensive than buying a bespoke industrial computer these enclosures have allowed manufacturing and production lines to use a conventional low cost PC in environments that they could normally not function in allowing the use of current technologies to ensure processes and production are running as efficiently as possible.

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