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Industrial PC: A Comprehensive Selection Guide

Oct. 20, 2023

Industrial PCs (IPCs) play a crucial role in various industries, providing the computational power needed for automation, control, data collection, and more. Choosing the right industrial PC is essential to ensure that it can meet the demands of your specific application. In this comprehensive selection guide, we'll explore the key factors to consider when choosing an industrial PC.

 

1. Operating Environment 

The operating environment is a critical factor in selecting an industrial PC. Different industries and applications expose IPCs to varying conditions. Consider the following environmental factors:

 

Temperature: Determine the operating temperature range of your application. Some environments may require IPCs to operate in extreme heat or cold.

 

Humidity: In settings with high humidity or the potential for moisture exposure, choose IPCs with appropriate protection.

 

Dust and Particles: Industries like manufacturing or agriculture may have elevated levels of dust and particles, so IPCs with dust-resistant features are essential.

 

Vibration and Shock: In applications with heavy machinery or transportation, ensure the IPC can withstand vibrations and shocks.

 

Chemical Exposure: Some industries, such as chemical processing, expose IPCs to corrosive chemicals. Select IPCs with protective coatings or enclosures for such environments.

 Industrial PC

 Industrial PC


2. Performance Requirements 

The performance of an industrial PC depends on the specific needs of your application. Consider the following aspects:

 

Processing Power: Determine the required CPU power and speed. More complex applications may demand multicore processors or specialized CPUs.

 

RAM and Storage: Assess the amount of RAM and storage required to handle your software and data. SSDs are often preferred for their durability and speed.

 

GPU: If your application involves graphics-intensive tasks, such as machine vision or simulation, consider the need for a dedicated graphics processing unit (GPU).

 

Connectivity: Ensure the IPC has the necessary ports and network interfaces for data acquisition, communication, and peripheral connections.

 

3. Form Factor

Industrial PCs come in various form factors, each suited to different installation and space requirements. Consider the form factor that best fits your application:

 

Rack-Mount IPCs: Suitable for server cabinets and data centers, these IPCs are compact and space-efficient.

 

Panel PCs: Integrating a touchscreen display and a computer, these are ideal for human-machine interface (HMI) applications.

 

Box PCs: These are standalone units designed for flexible installation in industrial settings.

 

DIN Rail IPCs: Common in industrial automation, these IPCs can be easily mounted on DIN rails in control cabinets.

 

4. Mounting Options 

Consider the mounting options for your IPC:

 

Wall Mount: Ideal for space-saving installation on walls, providing easy access for maintenance.

 

Panel Mount: For seamless integration with control panels, machinery, or industrial equipment.

 

VESA Mount: VESA-compatible IPCs can be attached to standard VESA mounts for versatile display positioning.

 

Desktop or Freestanding: Suitable for applications where mobility and ease of access are essential.

 

5. Display and Touchscreen Requirements 

In applications where operators or technicians interact with the IPC directly, the choice of display and touchscreen is vital:

 

Display Size: Select a display size that provides clear visibility for the intended tasks.

 

Resolution: Higher resolutions are important for applications that require detailed visuals.

 

Touchscreen Type: Capacitive touchscreens are more durable and responsive compared to resistive ones. In some cases, resistive touchscreens may be preferred for use with gloves.

 

Brightness and Sunlight Readability: Ensure that the display is visible in the ambient lighting conditions of your environment.

 

6. Expansion and Customization 

Consider the need for expansion options and customization:

 

PCIe Slots: Determine if you need expansion slots for additional cards like fieldbus, communication, or graphics cards.

 

Customization: Some IPC manufacturers offer customization options to tailor the PC to your specific application needs.

 

I/O Ports: Ensure that the IPC has the necessary I/O ports to interface with sensors, cameras, actuators, and other equipment.

 

7. Reliability and Longevity 

Industrial PCs are expected to have a longer lifespan than consumer-grade computers. Evaluate the reliability and longevity features of the IPC:

 

MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures): Look for IPCs with a high MTBF to ensure prolonged operation without frequent breakdowns.

 

Fanless Design: Fanless IPCs are often preferred in dusty environments because they reduce the risk of dust accumulation and heat-related failures.

 

Industrial-Grade Components: Check if the IPC uses industrial-grade components designed to withstand harsh conditions.

 

Warranty and Support: Verify the warranty and support offered by the manufacturer to safeguard your investment.

 

8. Regulatory Compliance 

Ensure that the industrial PC complies with relevant industry standards and regulations:

 

CE Marking: In Europe, CE marking signifies that the product complies with EU directives.

 

UL Certification: For safety and compliance with electrical standards, particularly in North America.

 

ATEX or Hazardous Location Certification: Required in environments with potentially explosive atmospheres.

 

IP Rating: Indicates protection against dust and moisture.

 

9. Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

Consider not only the initial purchase cost but also the long-term costs associated with maintenance, support, and downtime. A reliable IPC with a higher upfront cost may result in lower TCO due to reduced maintenance and downtime expenses.

 

10. Scalability and Future-Proofing 

Think about the potential scalability of your industrial PC solution. As your application evolves, you may need to expand or upgrade your IPC. Choose a solution that offers flexibility for future growth.

 

In conclusion, selecting the right industrial PC involves assessing the operating environment, performance requirements, form factor, mounting options, display and touchscreen specifications, expansion and customization capabilities, reliability, compliance, TCO, and scalability. By carefully considering these factors, you can choose an industrial PC that is tailored to your specific application needs and ensures long-term reliability and performance.

 


 


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