Embedded Computer
Industrial computers are rugged solutions that offer long life cycle support Aug 05, 2022

Industrial applications require industrial computers, no doubt about that. Industrial computers are rugged solutions that provide long life cycle support, the two main requirements for long-term mission-critical applications. Having said that, these deployments typically consider two different implementations. One solution is an all-in-one touchscreen computer or tablet. Another option is a two-piece solution consisting of an industrial box PC and a touchscreen monitor. There are benefits to both implementations, and I'd like to outline a use case where one might be better than the other.


Industrial touchscreen panel PCs are the most straight forward solution for most VESA mount and panel mount applications. The computer and touchscreen are integrated into one package, so external cables are unnecessary. All-in-one touchscreen computers can be mounted to an arm or stand or hang on a wall using the VESA mounting holes for a clean appearance. All-in-one touchscreen panel PCs can be panel mounted into a cutout in an enclosure, where the screen is flush with the enclosure surface. Stainless steel all-in-one computers can be mounted in areas that are exposed to liquids, and they offer IP66 protection in wash down areas, which is common in many food manufacturing and pharmaceutical applications. These panel PCs and all-in-one computers simplify industrial automation and OEM equipment designs, as they can be easily integrated as a single piece of hardware.  


Some factory automation and OEM equipment manufacturer applications prefer a two-piece solution. Separating the industrial computer from the touchscreen display is seen as beneficial in some settings. Industrial computers are by definition reliable, but failures can still happen for a variety of reasons, and sometimes a two-piece solution is preferred. The most common examples of this is when there are known environmental or human threats to the touchscreen interface. A few examples from real world experience are with metal foundry computers, automotive manufacturing computers, and public kiosks. In these applications, the touchscreen user interface is frequently subject to abuse from metals, tools, and rowdy constituents. A two-piece solution may be preferable in these instances, as it is easier and less costly to replace a damaged touchscreen monitor than the entire panel PC. There are other situations where a two-piece solution may be beneficial. One example is related to the required LCD screen size. High performance Core i3/i5/i7 panel PCs are available in screen sizes down to 12.1”. If the application requires a smaller screen size, it is necessary to separate the industrial computer components into a rugged box PC and an industrial touch monitor. Another example of where a two-piece solution may be beneficial is when the highest processing performance is required.  Most high-performance industrial panel PCs include i3/i5/i7 mobile processors, and these CPUs are typically limited to dual core performance. Fanless box PCs are available with much higher CPU performance. 


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