Embedded Control / Enclosures

How to address the need for higher speeds and increased modularity in IPC-in-cabinet design

Seven experts give advice on the considerations machine builders need to make for IPC enclosure in regards to speed and modularity.

By Mike Bacidore, editor in chief

Our panel of seven industry experts tackle the tough questions about the future of enclosures and how industrial PCs are affecting machine design.

The demand for higher speeds and increased modularity has created new challenges. How can these be addressed with an IPC-in-cabinet design?

John Kowal webJohn Kowal, B&R Industrial Automation: The newest panel PCs consist of a computer module and a display module. Different size/performance IPCs can be used with different displays. Now you don’t have to replace the entire unit if an operator puts a screwdriver through the HMI or replace the HMI if you need a more powerful PC to meet new requirements.

John Kowal is director of business development at B&R Industrial Automation

Aaron Severa webAaron Severa, Pepperl+Fuchs: Having your industrial PC or thin client mounted within a cabinet will surely save space on the installation. Most panel mount solutions will easily mount into a designed cutout within the enclosure wall and have a front facing bezel that can match the environmental concerns of the area—for example, stainless steel or painted steel for NEMA 4X or NEMA 4 installation requirements.

Modularity on the HMI unit itself—for example, a concept where the screen, processor components and power supply are all separate entities—can ease the burden on replacements of failed components or potentially allow the user to easily upgrade to a newer processor or different screen type. If there were a case where the processor had failed or the screen was damaged, a replacement could easily be fitted to the existing HMI unit without having to remove the entire HMI and send it back to the factory for repair and replacement of failed components.

Aaron Severa is product manager, HMI/fieldbus, at Pepperl+Fuchs

Eric Reiner webEric Reiner, Beckhoff Automation: The challenge to increase machine speed and throughput, while maintaining precision and modularity, also points back toward component selection in controller design. We realized this quite some time ago and have been long-time partners with Intel and Microsoft. IPCs with inherent scalability can be easily swapped out for another with the same form factor, or even different form factors, as the needs of the application grow and change. This flexibility is also enhanced by the ability of these IPCs to seamlessly connect to any of the legacy fieldbuses and industrial Ethernet systems available, including EtherCAT.

Eric Reiner is industrial PC market specialist at Beckhoff Automation

On-Demand Presentation: Industrial PCs and embedded computing fundamentals  

Joe Bastulli webJoe Bastulli, Dell: When taking a modular approach and utilizing high-speed connections, it is especially important to stick with devices that use standard I/O protocols and connectors. Also, using high-quality cables with good connectors and locking, if possible, can help to eliminate potential problems caused by electric noise interference or degradation of signal integrity between devices. Low-quality connections have the potential to corrode over time due to normal oxidation processes and can be especially problematic for high-speed signal transmission.

Additionally, everything you can include inside the compute box engine requires less external connection and can be better controlled. For example, installing your WWAN radio inside an embedded PC eliminates the need to connect to an external WWAM modem, therefore creating one less likely failure point. The same can be said for external CAN transceiver modules, GPIO, Wi-Fi and storage.

Joe Bastulli is business development manager, embedded computing, at Dell

Chris Mason webChris Mason, Rockwell Automation: There are a wide range of industrial-PC form factors to suit the performance needs of even the most demanding applications. Our approach is to offer a range of performance options in our industrial, integrated, display-panel PCs along with standalone industrial box PCs that connect directly to our industrial monitors. Decoupling the PC from the display is easier for some customers to maintain while others prefer the all-in-one design.

Chris Mason is product manager, industrial computers at Rockwell Automation

Steve Sullivan webSteve Sullivan, Rittal: Modular enclosures create extra mounting surfaces on chassis bars, partial panels and door bars. The weight of these components and accessories is transferred to the frame, which can support up to 3,000 lb. This means more flexibility in system designs and more mounting options for components. In addition, designers and managers can use pre-engineered, not custom, parts as the enclosure evolves or scales over time.

Another way to address challenges in design is the use of busbar power management. A copper busbar system provides reliable electrical power distribution, and it requires less panel modification and fewer contact points and wiring work. By eliminating power distribution blocks, line-side wiring and large, parallel cable runs, busbar systems save space and time for panel builders and increase contact hazard protection.

Steve Sullivan is training supervisor at Rittal

Tim Stone webTim Stone, Advantech: Next-generation, two-piece designs—touchscreen separate from control box computer—address the ability in theory to be able to mix and match power and modularity requirements. Also, that allows for upgradability as requirements increase over time without rip and replace, as was in the past. This also lends itself to better serviceability and less spares stock for support purposes. All in all, two key factors are greatly improved. Flexibility from a spec in perspective allows faster design-to-production schedules. Secondly, manufacturers will be able to supply more configurations without the added expense of completely different configurations for each model. That will allow manufactures to reduce lead times for varied customer requirement requests.

Tim Stone is HMI product sales manager at Advantech


This is part two in a series about IPCs and enclosures. Read part one here and part three here.

Homepage graphic courtesy of Suriya Kankliang at FreeDigitalPhotos.net