Modular Computer ConceptWhile it may be gaining popularity, modular design is not new. There are Computer-on-Module (COM) solutions like PC/104, ETX/XTX, COM Express, etc. that all support modular computer design. Systems that required such solutions are typically for embedded applications, requiring longevity and rugged design. Because the development cycles are long, system engineers want to prolong the life cycle of the overall system by using computer modules that can be swapped out when newer technology becomes available. A benefit of modular design is a smaller-scale validation process than would have traditionally been used. This process costs less (time and money) and helps OEMs navigate the technology changes and take advantage of them more immediately. However, solutions like COM were not being offered at the PC subsystem level. This meant that system engineers still needed to design and validate on the PC subsystem level. The process usually involves in selecting required I/O interface and then encasing it in a custom-designed chassis. Afterwards, system engineers were still need to provide an appropriate thermal solution, either using cooling fans or going with a fanless approach. Lastly, the PC subsystem would need to be validated under the design environments, adding to the development schedule and cost. If the PC’s performance does not operate as planned, it will end up causing scheduling delays and increasing the total development cost.
Fanless PC AdvantagesThanks to the technological development of new processors, the new paradigm in PC subsystem design is to offer a pre-configured and pre-validated fanless PC subsystem. The advantages of using fanless PCs are very substantial:
- Less failure and no filters to replace (no cooling fan)
- Greater ingress protection (no ventilation opening)
- Higher reliability and less shock/vibration susceptibility (no moving components)
- Very compact form factor (no internal airflow and cooling fan space required)