The industrial sector can be an extreme place for electronics like a computer. Something as simple as the computer placement can be extremely challenging. Available space for a regular-sized PC and monitor is limited, or support structures to hold the setup are too fragile. 

Then there are the manufacturing processes themselves. The industrial sector covers a huge range of products and services. Companies make, distribute, and support a variety of items from foods, metals, to gas and oil. The processes to create many of them can involve freezing temperatures and lower, blazing heat, to metal-crushing levels of pressure. The machines may also generate enough levels of noise and vibration to quickly shut down the more vulnerable parts in most consumer grade PCs (examples: fans, hard disks). 

And it’s not just the manufacturing processes. Many companies, their manufacturing facilities, or both, can be located in places with hostile climates. For example, plants near water, surrounded by it, or located in the tropics, have to deal with high humidity. Such excess levels of moisture can easily damage PCs that are not rated for these types of conditions. Machinery and electronics in desert areas are subject not only to high temperatures but dust and sand. And so on. All these conditions and more can play havoc on unprotected computers. 

Companies have turned to small form factor PCs for solutions to operate within these conditions. Prominent companies such as Halliburton, Sensus, and Premier Coil Solutions are leading the change to small form factor PCs.

Fanless Computer Management: Halliburton Energy Service

Halliburton, whose headquarters is located in Duncan, Oklahoma, is one of the largest oil field service companies in the world. Part of that service is the operation of the cement manufacturing plants used to construct oil wells. At each plant, the company needed a computer to do two things. First, it had to act as a server to formulate the plant’s cement mixture, which was unique to each one. Second, it had to successfully display all manufacturing processes on a four-screen array to the plant operator to monitor and adjust as necessary. The two computers previously used for these tasks frequently broke down due to the dust created in the cement manufacturing process. Their replacement would need to function in the same condition and be unaffected. 

Halliburton looked to a fanless mini rugged PC as the answer to the above issues. The small form factor PC had enough processing power, memory, and storage capacity to replace both computers. This included the flexibility to switch from the previous four-monitor array to a new, single monitor with four-way split configuration. Yet the PC was small enough to fit underneath the operator’s desk. This saved on space. Finally, its fanless cooling system meant no dust was sucked into the PC to shut it down. The company could now operate knowing there would be no costly shut-downs for the foreseeable future. 

Space-saving and Sealed: Sensus

US-based Sensus is a manufacturer of utility meters. They needed a computer on their manufacturing floor. Space was limited, which immediately ruled out a typical desktop tower-and-flatscreen combo sold in the consumer market. Also, the manufacturing process at Sensus involved liquids which could accidentally splash onto computers and damage them. 

Sensus turned to an all-in-one PC as a solution. Though not a true small form factor PC like a box PC, it saved on space like one, housing all its computing power into a monitor which was controlled through a touchscreen. The VESA mounts on the back made placement easy on walls and even rails. The combination of size and features saved on space. As for liquids, the front of the PC is sealed with a rating of IP65 to resist accidental splashes. 

Shock and Vibration, Temperature Extremes: Premier Coil Solutions, Inc. 

Located in Waller, Texas, Premier Coil Solutions is a manufacturer of coiled tubing and pumping equipment. The company needed an HMI to control its heavy equipment while withstanding constant vibration. It would also have to deal with harsh terrain and weather because the equipment could be located in such places as the scorching deserts of Saudi Arabia or the freezing tundras of Alaska.

Premier selected a small form factor PC for its HMI. It had been built with industrial grade components. This allowed it to withstand shock and vibration common in such industries ﹘ a governing agency even certified it (IEC60068-2-27). Those components also mean the HMI could withstand temperature extremes (-25°C to 70°C) and a wide range of humidity (10% – 95% non-condensing). 

Closing Comments

The industrial sector can be hard on computers. To survive in such conditions, industry turned to small form factor PCs. Contact an expert at Cybernet if you’re looking to see how these compact, lightweight, yet powerful machines deal with situations like constant vibration, liquids, and temperature extremes.

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