Tag Archives: industrial grade computers

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4 Ways Specialized Industrial Computers Increase Safety Levels

Safety incidents in factories, manufacturing, and construction have been dropping since the ‘70s, which is fantastic news.

However, manufacturing and especially construction still have mortality and injury rates three times higher than the average of all industries put together. This is hardly a surprise, considering the heavy-duty equipment involved, but it can still be improved.

Specialized industrial grade PCs are leading the way forward, letting the machine take the risk while the human operator stays as safe and in-control as possible.

Properly Grounded Computers Save Lives

Though, as mentioned above, injuries are down overall, electrical fatalities actually had a 15% jump higher between 2015 and 2016, the date of most recent data.  As the amount of electrical equipment in the workplace increases in industry commiserate with the rise in automation, safety becomes even more important.

Industrial computers and equipment are everywhere, but luckily much of the danger from electrocution can be mitigated through the use of DIN rails.

What is DIN Rail?

DIN stands for “German Institute of Standards.” This doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you speak German – the original name was “Deutsche Institute von Normen.”  DIN is a standardized structural rail used to mount electrical equipment.

DIN rails are handy for installing a lot of electrical components in the same area. The rail can hold electrical breakers, terminal blocks for wiring, power supplies, and even heavier items like computers in certain configurations.

Other than ease of install and access, a DIN rail also serves to create a chassis ground for all equipment on the rail. This means that should a short occur and any equipment on the rail become energized, it will seek the nearest ground through the rail instead of, say, through a worker’s fragile human body.

There are modern industrial mini PCs that are designed to mount right to standard DIN rail. These computers are used for things like inventory, CNC machining, manufacturing processes, and even clocking in and out, and as such are in frequent contact with workers.

Should a DIN-mounted industrial computer take a jolt, though, the DIN rail is more likely to catch the brunt of it than an employee. Think of DIN rails as not only convenient hardware but as a lightning rod for keeping workers safe.

Computers Are Improving the Lockout / Tagout Safety Procedure

A large number of industrial accidents occur when it comes time to repair or service potentially dangerous equipment.

Turning off equipment isn’t enough. Saws, automated construction machines, meat grinders and cutters, industrial drills, bailers, and anything using a large amount of electricity (or compressed air, or steam) are all potentially fatal at any given time. One careless button press, switch flip, or plug-in could easily maim or kill the worker who’s repairing or cleaning the machine.

That’s why the concept of lockout / tagout was invented. In a nutshell, lockout / tagout is used to make sure that the machine being serviced is not only shut down, but has been physically prevented from being turned on by an actual lock. It also catalogs who was responsible for the lockout, and on what conditions (and by whom) it can be unlocked and safely used again.

Digital Lockout / Tagout Procedures

That’s where modern industrial grade PCs and industrial tablets come in.

With an industrial tablet and the proper software, it’s possible to create a custom QR code that lists every step of the lockout / tagout procedure for that particular machine. The QR code is then placed somewhere highly visible on the machine. The worker with the tablet can then scan the QR code of any machine and get step-by-step instructions for how to lockout that particular machine.

Software can even show the user if the machine has already been locked out, it’s normal maintenance schedule, machine audits, and whatever else you choose to include, depending on the software. It can even send an email or notification to the workers affected by the machine’s shutdown to let them know.

CNC Machining is Safer for Metal Shop Workers

Metal shops use two kinds of tools: manual, and CNC. Manual tools aren’t necessarily hammers and hacksaws – they can be powered, heavy-duty machines. Manual just means the operator does all of the work by hand.

CNC machining (“computer numerical control”) is instead automated and uses a CAD program or other set of directions to cut, shape, or detail metal per specifications. In theory, a CNC machine only needs an operator to put the metal in place, equip the right bits and tool in the machine, load the program, and step away.

While CNC machines are specialty equipment, they generally use an industrial panel PC as the brain of the device. The advantage of industrial computers is that, if they’re IP65 rated, they can withstand water sprays (from jet-cutting devices) and dust intrusion (from metal shavings and the like) coming from the metalworking process.

Precision is one of the main benefits of CNC machines, as is standardization. However, CNC machines (and the industrial grade PCs that run them) also work to protect workers from dangerous industrial accidents.

Instead of having to lean over a manual lathe or a drill, the operator can stand at the nearby computer, often behind the machine’s shield or guard. Fatigue, a cause of most industrial accidents, isn’t a problem since the CNC machine is doing the hard work.

Tracking Employee Locations in Emergencies

Some facilities are so large that tracking employee location can become a problem, especially when an accident or emergency occurs.

Back in 2005, a woman named Geetha Angara was killed at the Passaic Valley Water Commission facility in New Jersey. At first, it appeared she disappeared, and it took 25 hours to find her body. This incident inspired the use of RFID tags to track workers, especially in dangerous environments.

If all of the doors and gates in the facility — or at least the doors at major choke points — required an RFID tag to open, you could use that data to determine exactly where every employee is, and where they’ve been throughout the day.

This information could then be used by an industrial computer to map out employee locations and even send a warning or alarm if a normally-mobile employee hasn’t gone through a door in a while. If an employee goes missing, the system will know exactly where they’ve been, and the last known door or fence they used.

Protecting the Human Resource

It’s easy to think of industrial computers and power tools as implements to make work easier and faster, but they can also make work safer.

Reducing industrial injuries and accidents is everyone’s responsibility. Contact Cybernet to learn more about using industrial grade PCs and industrial grade tablets to integrate cutting-edge safety features into your workplace.

 

Three Industries That Benefit from the Use of Industrial Computing Solutions

Computers have come to occupy a position of importance in a variety of professional settings. A gamut of tasks, from the minute to the complex, is executed by these devices. The office sector has integrated the use of desktop computers to great effect. When it comes to fulfilling the needs of a specific profession, not all computers are made equal. The fields of industry and manufacturing rely on specific tools to carry out important business functions. Industrial grade computers have steadily risen to become the primary tool of choice for professionals who are working in demanding working environments. To understand this fully, it is important to consider the nature of each profession’s working environment. The areas of industry and manufacturing do not have the comforts of a controlled office space. Industrial working environments are usually dusty, loud, and filled with a number of potentially hazardous materials. Let’s take a look at some of the industries that are best served by industrial computing solutions.

Power Generation

Power stations that generate electricity are one industrial setting where industrial computing devices need to be employed. The demand for electricity is nearly universal and industry leaders cannot afford to work with tools that can be compromised easily. The unique environmental conditions of power stations are the main reason why industrial grade computing devices are required. More often than not, power stations are outdoor locations that aren’t immediately friendly to electronic devices. The remote locations of some power stations will expose electronics to the elements. It is important for the computers in power stations to be engineered in such a way that they are resistant to dust, vibration, and fluctuating thermal conditions. Industrial computers are the best tool for these environments because of their rugged features and high standards of reliability.

Mining Industry

The mining industry is another sector that can benefit from the use of industrial computing solutions. Traditional mining methods have given way to more sophisticated approaches made possible by technological advances. Industrial computers are used to guide the tunneling machines that are employed in various mining operations. These devices dictate the speed, position, and output of the tunneling machines that are being deployed resulting in a streamlined and efficient operation. The rugged features of industrial computing devices also come into play given the nature of the environmental conditions in the mining industry. Industrial computers manage to address performance needs without succumbing to extreme fluctuations in temperature, system malfunctions brought about by flying dust particles, and humidity and moisture issues.

Transportation Industry

The transportation industry heavily relies on industrial computing solutions to address a variety of needs. Railway transit systems use industrial computers to fulfill numerous tasks. The processing power of industrial computers is employed to fulfill communication, safety, collision avoidance, lighting, and location monitoring tasks in railway systems. At the same time, the sturdy build quality of industrial computers ensures that the devices get to withstand the constant stresses brought about by continuous exposure to shock and vibration.

Industrial Computing: Changes in the Oil and Gas Industry

The field of industrial computing has evolved to such a degree that the devices that are currently available transform the very industries that they are deployed in. There are a number of computers suitable for a variety of industrial working environments. Some working conditions may require the use of computers designed to respond to its stringent demands. The oil and gas industry is an area where specialized computer devices need to be employed. In this industry, it is common for prices to fluctuate due to the changes that occur on a production level. Recently, prices for gas and oil have been less expensive due to the high production rates the refineries. The availability of advanced technological tools like rugged industrial grade computers have contributed to this production boom.

New Sources of Fuel

Growth in oil and gas come as a result of the ability of refineries to tap into previously unheard of sources of fuel. Now, it is possible to extract oil from oil sands, shale deposits, and subsea strata. This new way of extracting energy resources requires the use of industrial computers that are capable of handling the complex tasks that are associated with the process. One of the biggest requirements for computers that are deployed in the oil and gas industry is the ability to withstand punishing working environments.

Harsh Working Environments

The amount of data that is associated with the process of extracting oil is considerable. With refineries tapping into new sources like subsea deposits, it becomes imperative for the devices that are being used to withstand the stresses associated with these working environments. Every computer device that is deployed in the oil and gas working environment needs to be able to withstand the harsh environmental conditions long enough for producers to capture and analyze the data that they gather. Should these devices fail in the middle of data gathering procedures an oil rig could shut down resulting in a substantial loss to the company.

Industrial Computers as a Vital Work Hub

Apart from the ability to withstand a host of environmental pressures, industrial grade computers are being used to connect a host of equipment that is being used in oil rigs across multiple locations. The ability of these industrial computers to function as a hub enables users to remotely access the data that they gather. Remote access to critical data enables professionals to make critical decisions in real time as developments occur. A greater degree of communication between field staff, oil producers, and other experts results in a safer and more proactive working environment.

Reliability

It is vital that industrial computers possess a high quality of reliability. One of the most important features that oil producers need from devices that are to be deployed in the oil and gas industry is a high mean time between failures rate. Ideally, there should be a complete lack of downtime when it comes to the devices that are being used in the oil and gas industry. A critical failure in a device that is used for oil and gas extraction can result in lengthy downtime periods that result in massive losses. Given the nature of the locations of these rigs, maintenance procedures require a great expenditure of financial resources, time, and manpower. Purchasing reliable rugged industrial computers reduce the possibility of system failures and prevent the producers from wasting resources in maintenance procedures.

Product Life Cycle and Maintenance Needs

One of the most critical areas that producers need to take a look at before they purchase a rugged industrial computer is the life cycle of the device. Oil and gas producers need to look for a device that is supported by its manufacturer on a long term basis. This ensures that parts and components that are needed for repairs and maintenance procedures will be available long after the device has been purchased. Given the nature of the locations of oil rigs, it is critical for the manufacturer of a device to possess a global presence as well. The oil and gas industry span multiple locations across the globe and the manufacturer of your industrial grade computer needs to be able to respond to maintenance needs accordingly. With new sources for oil and gas being discovered, it is critical for oil producers to utilize technology that is capable of keeping up with the demands of the industry. As the industry continues to evolve, the growth of rugged industrial grade computers can be expected to reflect those changes as well.