Why do some people prefer industrial PCs over commercial ones? The answer to this is that industrial computers now occupy an important spot on the manufacturing floor because they are better in so many ways. From making it possible to run powerful automation software to running data acquisition and other complex applications and processes, these systems are worth their immense popularity.
Surprisingly though, their construction is similar to that of a commercial PC. Both types of computers have a motherboard, storage media, CPU, expansion slots, and RAM, as their hardware components. Similarly, both of them are used for receiving, storing and processing information using the instructions from software or program to perform a sequence of operations.
If this is true, what makes them so different? Consider the following factors:
Not every computer will survive in every environment
The problem with commercial computers is that they have been designed to function within a narrow range of environmental conditions. This includes humidity (low) and temperature (moderate). If you need a computer for a clean office environment where temperature and humidity are maintained round the clock, then the commercial computer is an ideal choice.
However, if you are considering taking your computer with you to a rugged location, then you’d need something more reliable and resilient. An industrial computer is capable of handling a much broader temperature range. Besides this, it has a higher resistance to moisture, dirt, corrosive substances, dust, vibrations, and shocks. Unlike the Single Board Computer, a commercial computer also needs more power to function. It gets heated up during use, which is why it is fitted with fans.
Regarding the environments that industrial computers are used in, they can be subjected to continual vibrations from working machinery. Thus, they are designed to be physically rugged themselves. Their shock and vibration tolerance ranges are 5 g and 0.5 g, respectively. On the other hand, a commercial computer doesn’t come with a shock or vibration rating.
Some brands even install their computers inside a steel or aluminum enclosure. It acts as an additional layer of protection. Commercial computers are only protected by plastic or lightweight metal enclosures. Thus, they aren’t capable of functioning in environments where vibrations or shocks are distinct possibilities. Their internal parts will become too damaged for them to keep operating in such a place.
The cost of a computer is different from what you pay for
When compared to a commercial grade computer, an industrial computer costs much more! It is probably due to the high specifications which allow it to operate in any environment that makes this computer so pricey.
Some industrial environment players will keep using commercial grade products that they can replace after the first ones break down. This might be cheaper, but it is also a short-sighted plan. This is because price and ownership costs are two different things.
When you buy commercial grade computers, you also pay for:
- How much the new unit will cost you if the existing unit fails
- The significantly higher amount of maintenance costs and resources that you will pay during the replacement and installation of the faulty units
- The loss of business during the downtime between each replacement
- Training someone in case manufacture of the existing model has been ceased
- Mounting solutions due to lack of a standard setting
An industrial product will provide a significantly lower total cost of ownership.
Unlike the industrial computer, a commercial motherboard doesn’t have a design that is friendly to customization. Thus, it cannot fulfill the market demands in this aspect. The industrial sector has an advantage with many flexible industrial motherboards being available. They are produced to meet customers’ individual needs.
For instance, many industrial computers can have parts added or removed from them. This is even applicable to machines that have been in use. This allows them a high degree of flexibility that isn’t found in commercial computers. Thus, the user can construct systems as they see fit according to their requirements.
Another aspect of the flexible nature is that they can be moved around applications. Equipped with an easy access screw, some industrial computers can be opened and closed quickly by techs who can swap the cards within. Thus, if a computer isn’t useful in one department, this flexibility allows techs to use them for some other relevant purpose.
If we are to make smart manufacturing a reality, then we need the right equipment starting from the industrial floor. Since commercial or desktop computers won’t survive a rigorous environment, they cannot regulate the workflow in such surroundings. When businesses are willing to pay a bit more, they can enjoy the reliability and upgradeability that an industrial computer has to offer.