Tag Archives: industrial automation

DIN mounted computers

Real-Life Applications for Rack Mounted Computers and DIN Rail Computers

Mounting a computer isn’t just screwing in a few bolts into a strip of metal and calling it a day; there are stronger reasons for rack mounted computers and DIN rail computers than just looking professional. Rack mounts are best employed to keep hot and cold air moving at efficient rates. DIN rail computers follow a worldwide standard so professionals can easily mount them and other devices to a DIN strip. Let’s take a look at reasons some industrial companies utilize rack and DIN mounting for computers and possible problems when they’re not used in place of a consumer-grade PC.

Rack Mounted Computers Alleviate Heat and Manage Cabling

Rack mounted computers aren’t just installed in racks because it’s convenient; heat plays a major factor in the design for mounts. Imagine gathering several tower computers together in a room, connecting them haphazardly, flicking the power switch, and letting the computers sit without ventilation. That’s the equivalent of putting a computer in the oven for several hours—that infrastructure won’t last. Without a proper structure with the right industrial computers in place to route heat and wires, the server room in question will cook every component within it. In a server rack mount computer configuration, there are layout designs called hot/cold aisle configurations. They’re in place to ensure hot and cold air don’t mix. That’s why rack mounted computers have a superior design over consumer-grade PCs—since they will be functioning as “always on,” it’s important to design their cases in a matter so that they’re easily removable if need be and cold/hot air can flow liberally throughout their vents.

DIN Rail Computers Are Uniform

Without a mounting standard for computers, how can an individual know what they’re getting and how to mount it? If there’s no standard met with mounting an industrial computer, one can easily get lost in translation trying to match a random mounting bracket with a DIN strip. One of the greatest benefits to DIN mounting is that there’s no guesswork. DIN is a German national organization that sets measurement standards for a range of applications such as electrical connections, paper sizes, film speeds, and other standards. If a company decides to make it’s own mounting standard, industry professionals would be forced to stick with their proprietary industrial computers and terminal blocks. What if a company needs to purchase a range of products from different manufacturers, each with their own standards? That would lead to a potential pathway of unnecessary clutter, especially if a company requires four or five different standardized mounts. Standardizing the mounts through DIN make it easy to organize and mount DIN rail computers so there’s a neater possible configuration of components that retail off-the-shelf computers can’t provide.

DIN Rail Computers are Protected

If there’s a loose ground on an industrial computer for whatever reason, there’s an obvious risk of losing data, facing a short-circuit fiasco, or an entire system failure happening. Plus, heat has a tendency to rise upwards—if a series of computers are mounted together on a vertical rail, what kind of heat is each industrial computer receiving? How will cabling be handled with an entire coupling of computers? Gathering heat-producing electrical devices together can be a heat and electrical risk. That’s one reason why DIN mounts are standardized—they function as grounds for each computer. A DIN mount’s metal composition is important to the series of DIN rail computers installed on it. Aluminum is a common metal to use for ground transfer in the case of galvanic corrosion or electrical problems—it’s lightweight, too. Copper mounts can act as heat conductors, drawing away heat from the military grade computers. Plus, DINs function as proper cabling pathways. Setting up a bunch of retail computers to reside on a warehouse floor with cables strung everywhere is not an ideal solution for safety—either for the computer or for who might be using them. Protect your investments and your employees by mounting your DIN rail computers whenever possible to keep electrical hazards down and maintain a professional look.

Cable management, protection from heat, power distribution, and grounding all come to mind when handling rack and DIN mounted computers—that functionality isn’t just a matter of having convenient access to the computer in question when it’s needed. It’s a matter of optimizing your server installation layout to protect your data and ensure your network installation has zero problems in its design. That’s why choosing an industrial computer is a better option than consumer-grade.

Types of Industrial PCs Used in Industrial Automation

The industrial sector is increasingly experiencing the impact of the Industry 4.0 concept. Whether you are looking to optimize the workflow, increase production or savings in maintenance, or explore new automation opportunities, there are many ways industrial automation and the underlying technology can boost your operations.

Industrial automation is the automation of technical processes using computer and information technologies. It gains importance as the underlying technologies evolve rapidly, infiltrating more spheres of our working lives. The term industrial automation is used when devices, machines or technical plants work automatically with the help of electrical, pneumatic, hydraulic or mechanical equipment. The machine equipment replaces the human actions. The system, in this case, consists of three constituents [source]:

  • A technical plant or machines that perform a technical process, such as transformation, manufacturing, conversion or transport of material or energy.
  • A computer or a communication system that processes information from the machines. It acquires, calculates and presents data about the technical events. It also provides the necessary interface for the personnel to control the technical processes.
  • The control personnel that observes, controls and influences the technical processes through the corresponding interfaces and adjusts the process in case any disturbances arise.

The aim is to replace as much as possible human labor intervention and hazardous assembly processes with automated machine labor.

In an industrial environment, a wide number of factors influence the choice of the computer for the industrial automation, such as ruggedness, shock, vibration, temperature, pressure, distance, humidity, exposure to liquid, dust, and many other ambient variables.

Mini Rugged PCs

These are versatile, customizable industrial computers that allow adding almost unlimited functionality via full-size and mini PCI Express slots, USB ports, mSATA, RS232 ports. Ruggedness ensures shock and vibration protection, durability, while IP65 sealed waterproof and dustproof build ensures ingress protection from liquids and hard particles, as well as temperature fluctuations. Mini rugged PCs come with military-class high-performance processors that minimize power consumption and maintenance costs. They are compatible with virtually any existing peripherals, and any device in an industrial setting. The multiple PCI Express slots enable it to be configured for nearly any industrial automation functionality. Since many builds are fanless, their cooling system is passive, and thus the PC consumes less power and produces significantly less heat than traditional computers.

Of special benefit is the terminal block feature, which allows the PC to be turned off remotely, so locating it in an enclosure and being able to power on and off the computer makes it more flexible as to where you can mount it.

Mini rugged PCs have many applications in industrial automation:

  • Data collection.
  • Control card for equipment.
  • Industrial imaging and other applications requiring high-speed data.
  • Controller in machine vision applications to automate quality control systems.
  • Automatic inspection, measurement, verification, flaw detection.
  • Direct equipment, for example, robots.
  • Video surveillance and analytics requiring HD image capturing, facial recognition, real-time detection, and post analytics.
  • Any application that requires removable drive bays for swappable hard drives for easy data backup.
  • As embedded computers.

Industrial Open Frame Panel PCs

Industrial panel PCs support industrial communication protocols and accommodate the needs of many industrial applications that allow operators to monitor, control and adjust industrial automation processes. Serial ports and dual NICs allow its use with legacy devices and peripherals, so integrating new equipment and still use the older devices creates saving opportunities.

Open frame panel PCs are designed for seamless installation in industrial environments and integration into an existing architecture of a production chain – in control cabinets, machines, kiosks, etc. They are widely used for Human Machine Interface, as its resistive touch screen and ruggedness ensure easy data access and durability under harsh environments. Open frame panel PCs are widely used for:

  • Original equipment manufacturer machinery, OEM.
  • Human-Machine Interface, HMI.
  • Machine-Machine Interface, MMI.
  • Internet-of-Things control and data aggregation.
  • Vision systems.
  • Factory automation systems.
  • Material handling.

Industrial Tablets, Forklift Tablets

Companies see the wisdom in deploying industrial tablets on the manufacturing floor for a variety of applications:

  • Human-Machine Interface – instant access to critical data with notifications from industrial automation systems, status information, machine vision system notifications.
  • Instant remote control of industrial processes.
  • Any application that relies on the cloud-based platforms and machine-learning monitoring systems that detect anomalies in automation systems and enable predictive maintenance of industrial equipment.
  • HMI-hosting web servers host large volumes of data about production statistics, maintenance and diagnostics. Since industrial tablets pull the data from the cloud, employees do not need to plug in (as with laptops) and can change parameters remotely.
  • Numerous warehouse and inventory tasks automation with embedded barcode reader or RFID reader for quality control, items tracking and security, for example for scanning barcodes on raw materials and finished goods.
  • Forklift tablets are popular due to their ruggedness, easy yet reliable mounting, hot-swap batteries and versatility. Forklift tablets are used in HMI, MMI, barcode scanning and inventory management, processes control and monitoring. They ensure 24/7 uptime and withstand shock, vibration and other harsh conditions.
  • Industrial tablets are widely used for assembly line balancing.
  • Linux and Windows-powered rugged tablets are used for embedded systems, factory automation, tracking and tracing, eliminating paperwork, capturing signatures.

Benefits of Industrial Automation

  • Increase labor productivity – get greater output without losing accuracy.
  • Improve product quality, reduce defect rate, increase conformity and uniformity of the quality.
  • Reduce production cost, labor cost, increase ROI.
  • Reduce routine manual tasks such as variables monitoring.
  • Improve safety by locating the human worker outside the hazard zone, thus preventing accidents and injuries.
  • Advance remote performance monitoring, diagnostics, set point computations, startup and shutdown operations, critical notifications, reporting and remote control of automated processes.

Benefits of Industrial Computers and Rugged Tablets

  • Rugged builds, water- and dustproof, IP65 sealed, shock, vibration and temperature fluctuations resistant.
  • Military-class computation power.
  • Power-efficient.
  • Fanless, passive cooling.
  • Hot-swap drives in panel PCs –  perfect for data backups.
  • Hot-swap batteries in tablets for 24/7 uptime.
  • MIL-STD components, 5+ years lifespan, low fail rates, extended warranties, customized builds.
  • Integrated peripherals – barcode, RFID, CAC, Smart Card, biometric.
  • Ease of mounting with VESA.
  • Ease of integration with legacy ports, support for industrial protocols and Windows or Linux OS.

Industrial Automation & The Future of Employment

The discussion about industrial automation replacing the human workforce has a long history and goes back to the Industrial Revolution, but it is the advent of the PC in the 80s that has changed the way we work forever. The discussion has generated a number of myths. What often remains behind the scenes is how technology ends up creating more jobs than it destroys. As industrial automation is doing a certain task faster, cheaper and safer, it creates a demand for a human workforce to perform other tasks to tend to industrial automation itself.

Another myth is the perception of a “factory worker” as a low-skilled, low-paid employee. This is a dramatically outdated perception, as manufacturing is one of the highest paying careers. The manufacturing sector demands increasingly sophisticated technical skills of all modern factory workers.

Unlike the hazardous and dirty factories of the past, modern factory floors are cleaner, safer and better equipped with high-end industrial computers than most outsiders to the industry realize. A skilled worker in the industrial sector has better prospects of a stable employment than in many other sectors.

This misconception of a factory worker as a low-skill employee, in turn, creates a self-inflicted obstacle for the young generations – even though the majority of parents agree on the importance of the manufacturing sector for the country’s economy, few of them would encourage their kids to pursue a career in manufacturing.

The education sector is slow to adapt, too, failing to provide enough skilled workers. Why? Again, the misconception about automation cutting jobs in the manufacturing sector has urged young people to pursue careers in the services sector. In response, the education sector has reduced the focus on the technical education.

Skills Gap

With the growing anxiety about the industrial automation leaving factory workers unemployed, thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector go unfilled across the U.S. and globally.

Since 2009, the number of jobs in manufacturing has risen, with 2016 hitting the 15-year high, according to Labor Department. Openings in manufacturing in 2016 average 353,000 per month, up from 122,000 in 2009. In 2000, 53% of workers in the manufacturing sector had high school education, but by 2015 that share dropped to 44%. The share of workers with college or graduate degrees increased eight points. A study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce found that 2016 is the first year when college-educated manufacturing workers outnumbered those with a high-school diploma and less.

A 2015 survey by Deloitte found that recruiting an engineer takes businesses 94 days in average, a skilled production worker – 70 days.

Industrial automation and globalization cut the demand for the low-skilled worker who does not have the necessary skills to manage the new equipment. Yet, the jobs requiring technical skills and a degree in STEM disciplines face a dramatic staff shortage, which delays businesses from increasing their production and growth.

The machinery used in industrial automation becomes increasingly sophisticated. The positions of technicians with the mechanical and electrical skills needed to maintain these machines often go unfilled for months as recruiters search for candidates with a bachelor’s or associate’s diploma in manufacturing engineering.

Science & engineering degrees are high in demand in research-driven sectors, such as pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing, or aerospace. Hard-to-fill positions of maintenance technicians and machinists require a college degree or apprenticeship.

A report by Citigroup provides a deep insight into the future of employment affected by industrial automation:

  • There will be over 9.5 million additional and 98 million replacement jobs in all sectors from 2013 to 2025, in EU.
  • In the U.S., the IT, health and industrial sectors are predicted to have the largest number of job openings.
  • Job polarization will increase as more jobs will be created on the top and the bottom of the sector.
  • Most jobs in demand and with high stability rate will be characterized by non-routine tasks, creativity, analytical skills that can not be replaced by technology.
  • Manufacturing is one of the most promising sectors for the creation of new jobs in autos, robotics, 3D printing, and transportation.
  • New jobs for automotive engineers estimate at nearly 100,000.

New Jobs

The International Federation of Robotics (IFR) estimates the increase in industrial automation over the next 5 years would create one million high-quality jobs in the industrial sector. As the machines become smarter, faster and cheaper, they will create more jobs for the technicians that tend to them, engineers that design and build them, and testers that analyze and deploy them.

In 2012, there were 133,000 robot engineers and 17,000 robotics technicians in the U.S. By 2022, robot engineers positions are expected to increase by 30,000, and over 4,000 for robot technicians.

Computer controlled machine operators, mechanical engineering technicians, industrial software programmers and data analysts, machine setters, operators, and tenders are among the positions that will see an increase in job openings due to industrial automation.

Automotive engineers designing new vehicles and automotive engineer technicians assisting them in defining the practicality of their design are two emerging job types expected to grow by 7% by 2022 in the U.S., with 100,000 and 12,000 openings respectively. The skills required for these jobs include computer-aided manufacturing, analytical software design, and development of environmental software.

The use of drones and unmanned aircraft systems is expected to populate precision agriculture and public safety, replacing some farming jobs, construction site monitoring, and surveillance of oil and gas pipelines. Yet, creating more than 34,000 jobs in 2017, and a total of 103,776 by 2025 in drones manufacturing sector.

Addressing The Skills Gap

In order to address the skills gap, manufacturers need to do better, says Deloitte, by engaging their existing workforces & providing the training necessary to acquire the new skills. 7 out of 10 executives polled by Deloitte reported shortage of staff with necessary technology, computer, and technical training skills:

  • 94% agree internal employee training and development programs are the most effective strategies in developing a skilled production workforce.
  • 72% said involving local schools and community colleges is effective.

What Employees Can Do To Make The Switch To New Jobs

Manufacturing workers best equipped to fill the talent gap possess technical skills that complement IT and automation technology. They possess a combination of a college degree, math skills, a working knowledge of computers and an ability to think critically, or trade-based skills that can not be automated. Workers who want to make the switch to the new jobs will need to acquire a high-tech skill set:

  • mechanical reasoning
  • spatial visualization
  • logic troubleshooting
  • operating computerized machinery, and using industrial computers for a wide range of operation-critical functions
  • be familiar with industrial software user interfaces, have the ability to work with computerized systems
  • understand hydraulic, electrical, pneumatic systems
  • have knowledge of mechanical and electrical engineering processes
  • have the ability to read manufacturing blueprints, read/write machine programming code
  • ability to operate automated manufacturing systems

 

Manufacturers now focus on preventive maintenance, machine programming, and technical troubleshooting, so many factories need technicians capable of debugging assembly lines to restore the corrupt code in a factory’s operating software.

The bottom line is you can’t obtain these skills from a manual or a short-term course. You need the base such as a trade school certification of a bachelor’s degree. From there, you take the training or apprenticeship courses with the manufacturers of the industrial automation machines, or the factories that deploy them.

How Industrial Computers Are Changing Industrial Automation

The accelerating pace of manufacturing competition pushes the adoption of advanced automation system globally. Used widely in detection, optimization, control, management, scheduling, analyzing and decision-making in various production processes, industrial automation improves product quality and the quantity output, increases the safety of labor and lowers the production costs.

Industrial Computers At The Heart of Industrial Automation

Industrial automation roughly consists of three key components – hardware, software, and system. Needless to say, the industrial computer is the cornerstone of industrial automation, the core of automation equipment and the base of information infrastructure. The industrial computer is now the driving force of industrial automation and the innovation that pushes the boundaries of automation the way we know it.

The current challenge for the enterprises now is to monitor the growing market of industrial automation solutions and technologies. Keeping up with the trend allows the companies to select and apply the automation solutions that will keep them ahead of the global competition. This means the decision makers need to not only understand the currently available technologies but to continue an ongoing self-education to be able to see the perspective in the innovative solutions.

Robotics

The industrial automation is the present and the future, and robotics is gaining momentum. Collaborative robots dramatically broaden industrial automation possibilities. The flexibility of robotic automation solutions allows the companies with modest budgets to implement them widely. The worldwide competition has been shaped by now, with USA, Germany, China, South Korea, and Japan accounting for three-quarters of robot sales globally. China aims to become the leader of the world’s most automated nations, with 150 robotic units per 10,000 employees by 2020, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

The industrial computers drive the robotics industry, allowing for the industrial automation and digital information from sensors, cameras, the numerous IoT and industrial software to meet in a robust and easy-to-use interface of an industrial computer that can operate in rugged environments, is portable, has a significantly longer lifespan than the consumer PCs, and effectively a lower TCO.

Big Data

The consumer industry has influenced the changes in the industrial PCs evolution. The push for smaller, mobile and ever more robust and powerful devices has urged the industrial computers to keep up with the general trend. The past decade saw such advancements in the industry that allowed the industrial PCs to become smaller but handle the big data and analytics that require huge computing power. The capability of industrial PCs to handle big data increase the productivity and manufacturing performance. At the same time, the availability of multiple builds and solutions has made industrial PCs affordable for manufacturers of all sizes.

Powered by industrial PCs, industrial automation systems capture, process and analyze a wide range of data, the Big Data. That analyzed data is then effectively used to:

  • Improve productivity and performance
  • Make predictive maintenance possible, which helps manufacturers avoid production interruptions due to machine failures
  • Improve equipment utilization and overall equipment effectiveness
  • Run the equipment at optimized energy output, minimizing the production costs even further
  • Remotely access control systems with industrial mobile devices
  • Manage and control cybersecurity of the complex ecosystem

 

By capturing and analyzing data at every stage of production (through specially designed software, sensors and the industrial computer as the processing power of that data), manufacturers can review and create new manufacturing designs or optimize the existing ones. Big data allows the enterprises to connect, compare, assess different parts of the production cycle and use that information to make the production smarter, more cost-effective, and make predictive decisions.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

The growth of industrial automation by now has shaped a new vision  – Industry 4.0, which is a holistic approach that calls for omnidirectional modernization through the application of technology. The industrial automation adoption rates grow partly due to the fact that manufacturers now realize low labor rate is no longer a winning strategy. Industrial automation is.

This does not mean, however, that the machines are replacing humans – it means the humans need different skills. According to DMDII, The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, there are 600,000 unfilled positions in manufacturing around the country due to the technological skills gap, with Baby Boomers retiring and companies struggling to find skilled workers to replace them.

Industry 4.0, or the fourth industrial revolution, calls for the efficient implementation of the Internet of Things and communications technology in conjunction with the production. What else if not the industrial computer lets the multitude of machines communicate and offer a control and analysis interface to humans?

Industry 4.0 vision is grand and exciting. It envisions the achievement of the higher efficiency, productivity and self-managing processes, with industrial equipment, machines, logistics systems, IoT, communication systems, Big Data, analytics and humans communicating and cooperating directly. And the industrial computer is at the center of the intertwined web of these interactions. Namely, the mass production, affordability, and availability of industrial PCs.

The Industry 4.0 envisions the production of highly customizable produce in large quantities through industrial automation. In an environment, where production and logistics intelligently and effectively communicate creating a flexible manufacturing ecosystem, industrial computers play the key role.

A recently published Price Waterhouse Coopers report Industry 4.0: Building The Digital Enterprise says 72% of manufacturing enterprises expect their data analytics to improve their customer relations, while 35% of companies that already adopted Industry 4.0 expect their revenue to grow by 20% during the next 5 years.

New Opportunities

Finally, the growing role of industrial automation, robotics, IoT and Big Data is projected to give life to new business models that will offer new opportunities for manufacturers big and small.

Just as mobile technologies have revolutionized the communications and entertainment sectors, the increasingly powerful industrial computers let the industrial automation revolutionize the manufacturing processes and even create new business models. The enterprises that will harness the benefits of the digital technologies will be ahead of the competition in the upcoming decade.