A nice inheritance has its benefits, but can often come with strings attached. Industrial computers owe much to the advances made on behalf of consumer PCs, but they also inherit the built-in obsolescence that goes with the technology.
"On one side, tremendous advances have been made to offer extraordinary price/performance for components essential to the control industry," says Bob Burckle, vice president at WinSystems (www.winsystems.com). "On the other side, these parts are abandoned quickly as technology moves on to even greater functionality and complexity." That might fly in consumer circles, but a two- to three-year retirement rate isn't quite so desirable on the factory floor.
Intel's Atom processor has become particularly popular in the latest industrial PCs. Customers are requesting energy-efficient CPUs, notes Bjoern Falke, lead product specialist for automation marketing at Phoenix Contact (www.phoenixcontact.com), and the Atom processor provides that.
"We see a clear increase of Atom processors in current and upcoming devices," agrees Stephan Stricker, product manager for B&R Industrial Automation (www.br-automation.com). "The very attractive price and high temperature range makes these CPUs ideal for the industrial market."
Another benefit for industrial PCs driven by the consumer market is the falling price of very large (42 in. or larger) LCDs, notes Steve Schott, president of Comark (www.comarkcorp.com), making them feasible for use in manufacturing. "The large displays enable information to be displayed to a number of people such as a workcell team," he says.
|Got a Lot
GOT-5000 fanless touch panel computer supports Intel Atom N270 or AMD Geode LX800 processor in LCD sizes 5.7-12.1 in. IP65-rating and NEMA 4 sealed-front bezel provides protection, and aluminum back chassis provides thermal stability. It has 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet, a Mini Card slot or Mini PCI slot and a built-in WLAN antenna for wireless LAN/GPRS/GSM/3G connections, a 2.5 in. SATA HDD and a CompactFlash slot, rich I/O for peripheral connectivity and an overcurrent protection fuse.
|Open for Business
PPC3-G-6.5 open-frame PC operates from -20 to +70 °C and includes a resistive touchscreen integrated into a 2 in. deep chassis. The 6.5 in. color TFT flat panel display with 640 x 480 pixel resolution has luminance of 500 nits, a wide viewing angle, and a contrast ratio of 600:1. A PC/104-Plus SBC is the computing and display engine and contains the flat panel video controller, Ethernet port, two USB 2.0 ports, 4 COM channels, LPT, AC97 audio, 48 lines of digital I/O, and CompactFlash connector.
WinSystems; 817/274-7553; www.winsystems.com
Panel PC 800 performance ranges from Atom N270 to Core 2 Duo processors with 15 in. XGA and 19 in. SXGA touchscreen displays. Units with Core 2 Duo processors require no fan—the chipset, processor and other components are connected directly to a heat sink using heat-conductive materials. Options include up to two PCI and PCI Express slots, modular drives and additional fieldbus interfaces. An integrated UPS allows the system shutdown without data loss.
B&R Industrial Automation; 770/772-0400; www.br-automation.com
Using the latest CE 6.0 embedded software environment and Atmel AT91SAM9263 microcontroller with a 32-bit ARM instruction set, Relio R9 has up to 256 MB RAM and 256 MB Flash, and an enclosure suitable for mounting almost anywhere in a -40 to 85 °C operating range. For local or remote I/O expansion, it connects to Sealevel SeaI/O modules via RS-485 expansion port and communicates via RS-485 Modbus RTU.
Sealevel Systems; 864/843-4343; www.sealevel.com
4823CX PC has a 15 in. LED-backlit LCD and glass-on-glass resistive touchscreen, and handles extreme temperatures and industrial conditions. It has an Intel Atom processor, as well as optional Bluetooth, GPS, speakers, camera, microphone, Wi-Fi antenna, battery and charger. It is rated NEMA 4X and FM-approved pending Div 2 and Zone 2 ATEX rating.
Daisy Data Displays; 717/932-9999; www.d3inc.net
|Raid the Data|
C6930 IPC has a 3½ in. Beckhoff Motherboard for Intel Core Duo or Core 2 Duo processors, and offers high data security through an integrated RAID system for mirroring hard disks, and up to three Ethernet ports. Cooling fan cartridge with speed control and double ball bearing fans enable operation up to 55 °C.