Industrial Computers & Industrial PCs (Industrial Grade Version)
This page will provide you with everything you need to know about industrial computers and PCs, as well as the best source for industrial computers in the United States.
What is an Industrial Computer?
An industrial computer is, as the name suggests, a computer for industrial workloads, such as automation, manufacturing (production of goods), and autonomous robotics. Industrial PCs are often preferred for industrial workloads because they tend to be made from industrial-grade components, which are more dependable and durable than their consumer counterparts and are pushed to extremes for mission-critical reliability. As such, industrial computer hardware tends to be somewhat more expensive than regular desktop PCs. However, the total cost of ownership proves to be a major return on investment in terms of reliability and performance.
Industrial computers, such as those provided by Premio, are great for industrial workloads because they are built to operate in harsh environments, so if you need to deploy systems in an environment that is extremely cold, extremely hot, or tends to be subjected to frequent shocks and vibrations, you should choose an industrial option as they tend to be engineered and built to withstand harsh environments.
Although one might not need an industrial computer on their desk at home, these robust computing solutions are deployed on a large scale for enterprise applications and workloads in IoT.
The key characteristics of rugged industrial computers are that they are designed and built to provide reliability, stability, and efficiency regardless of the environment in which they are placed. They are especially great to reduce the downtime that you would typically expect from a consumer-grade PC that was not designed for industrial workloads.
What are Industrial PCs Used For?
Industrial PCs are used in industrial settings for process control and inspection of goods or components and data acquisition. Industrial computers come with I/O cards that can be plugged in to control the various types of equipment that you may find in an industrial setting. Additionally, serial ports, analog ports, and digital ports can be added to Premio’s industrial computers as required by your specific applications.
Industrial Computers vs. Regular Desktop Computers
This is so because the parts used in them are industrial-grade parts, and the systems are designed in a manner that enables them to withstand a wider temperature range, wider input voltage spikes, power protection, ingress protection, and shock and vibration, just to name a few.
Also, these purpose-built computer systems are built in a way that allows them to withstand tremendous amounts of shock and vibration, something that regular PCs will not be able to do for prolonged periods of time. Also, these computers adhere to strict standards and guidelines for electronics for military deployments.
For example, a popular specification to look for in industrial computers is its compliance with MIL-SPEC-810G in regards to shock and vibration; these are 50G Shock & 5GRMs vibration.
Industrial computers must be reliable, meaning they must be able to perform optimally 24/7 because downtime in an industrial setting usually translates into lost revenue.
We will now explain some of the main differences between industrial computers and regular computers in more detail.
1. Build Quality & Ruggedization
The most significant difference between industrial computers and regular desktop computers is the build quality. Industrial computers are often deployed in environments where the computer systems are exposed to extreme heat, extreme cold, debris, dust, vibrations, and shocks. As such, rugged industrial computers are designed and built to be able to withstand such conditions.
For example, at Premio, we pay special attention to the materials used in the outer enclosure of our computers; we reinforce our motherboards to ensure that they can withstand frequent shocks and vibrations. Also, we’ve eliminated all cables from the system to ensure that our industrial computers can withstand frequent shocks and vibrations without having any cables come loose.
Additionally, we have eliminated fans from our fanless industrial PCs to reduce the amount of moving parts that could fail, as well as eliminated the introduction of dust and debris into the system. Failed and failing fans are the leading reasons why so many computers fail. So, by eliminating them, we’ve made our computer systems much more reliable, requiring less maintenance.
2. Industrial Grade Components
The second main difference between regular computers vs. industrial computers is that industrial computers are made from industrial-grade components. Industrial grade components are more rugged than consumer parts because they have been rigorously tested to ensure that they can achieve optimal performance even when they’re deployed in harsh environments.
At Premio, everything from the PCB motherboards to the electrical soldered capacitors is specifically chosen and integrated into the system to ensure that our industrial PCs can reliably operate in harsh environments that are not friendly to computer systems.
Additionally, another major benefit of using industrial-grade components is the longevity of the lifecycle. For example, Intel’s Internet of Things Group’s embedded roadmap for their silicon commits to a 15-year lifecycle for support and availability. This is a huge benefit for industrial applications that require long life and a locked bill of material for ultimate reliability.
3. Dust & Debris Protection
Industrial computers are designed with dust and debris protection in mind. This is so because industrial computers are often deployed in areas, such as factories, kiosk machines, cabinets, vehicles, or mines, where this is a large amount of dust and debris that can damage the computer systems.
As such, many industrial computers have a fanless design that does not have any vent holes in the enclosure. The fanless design of industrial computers permits them to operate in dusty and debris-filled environments because the system is completely closed off from the outside environment.
The removal of fans means that air does not need to be circulated inside the system, which allows industrial pc makers to manufacture their systems without any openings. This enables fanless systems to operate in such environments without the operator having to worry about dust and debris making their way into the system, damaging internal components.
This is different from regular desktop PCs that use fans to circulate air throughout the system to cool it down. Active cooling can often damage computers because it introduces dust and debris into the system, causing fans and other components to fail.
4. Ability to Withstand Extreme Temperatures
Industrial computers are more flexible than personal computers in that they can withstand a wider range of temperatures. For example, a regular desktop PC can operate at a temperature range between 10°C to 50°C without experiencing any problems.
However, fanless industrial computers can run optimally at temperature that range between -40°C to 85°C. Industrial fanless PCs are able to operate at such low temperatures because the closed system is passively cooled via the use of heatsinks. Heatsinks make fanless industrial computers possible because they transfer heat away from the internal heat-generating components to the body of the computer, which dissipates the heat into the surrounding air.
5. Ability to Withstand Shocks & Vibrations
Another advantage that industrial computers have over standard personal computers is that industrial PCs are designed and built to withstand frequent and continuous shocks and vibrations. Systems that are not built to withstand shocks and vibrations will not last in an environment where they will be moved around and frequently subjected to jolts and shocks. This is so because the motherboards could flex, or connecters may become loose. That’s why we’ve built our industrial computers using reinforced mechanical designs and eliminated the use of cables, which eliminates the possibility that a cable may come loose from its connection. Our current rugged industrial computers are able to handle 5GRMs of vibrations, as well as 50Gs of shock in accordance with the MIL-STD-810G Standard, as mentioned earlier.
6. Expandability & Longevity
When it comes to expandability and longevity, industrial computers are much more expandable than regular desktop computers and therefore have a lengthier lifespan. Many of the components that are found in industrial PCs can last up to 15 years, providing you with a long-term embedded computer solution that you just can’t get with regular PCs.
Why Are Industrial PCs So Sought After?
Industrial PCs are sought after for industrial workloads because they are able to manage a variety of data inputs that transmit valuable data for real-time decision making. Industrial PCs can take in all of these inputs thanks to the variety of input and output (I/O) ports that you can configure them with. We will now discuss the different I/O ports that you can spec your system with.
1. Serial Ports
Serial ports are by far the most commonly used port in industrial computers. They enable communication between your industrial computer and legacy devices that are still used in manufacturing plants today. Although serial ports do not have the fastest data transfer rates, they are still widely used today because of the flexibility and reliability that they offer. Regardless of which legacy serial port you’re using, your industrial PC can be specked with the following ports: RS-232, RS-422, RS-485. The type of port that you will need depends on the application and devices that you want to connect to.
2. USB Ports
USB ports are the standard port for many devices thanks to the increased bandwidth that they offer. For example, current industrial PCs now have USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports that can connect to smart IoT sensors and pass data at 10Gbps. The second benefit of using USB ports is that they come equipped with intelligent power management capabilities that permit you to send devices to sleep when they’re not in use. That said, we understand that those who deploy our products often require both serial ports and USB ports, and that’s why at Premio, we offer you the ability to spec your industrial PC system with both serial and USB ports in scalable offerings.
3. Video Ports
The third great thing about industrial systems is that they come with different display outputs that include VGA, HDMI, DVI, and DP. We understand that many still use the VGA port because many legacy devices still use analog signals instead of digital ones. So we’ve continued to offer it on our industrial PC systems. However, if you want the best resolution and highest refresh rate, you have the option of using the HDMI and DP ports.
DIO refers to digital I/O, and GPIO stands for General Purpose I/O. These ports are used for electrical devices or sensors that do not have a common interface. They use two digital signals with two possible values represented as On or Off. This makes these ports great for sensing switch contacts in industrial settings where On/Off signals are often sent and received.
5. Lan Ports
Lan Ports allow data transfer rates of up to 10GbE per LAN port. These ports are often used on industrial computers because they provide uplink and downlink for data from network infrastructure, providing the necessary data transmission from modems, routers, switches, and other computers across your network. RJ45 LAN ports can also be configured with PoE (802.3at).
6. M12 Connectors
Industrial PCs are often used because they can be equipped with lockable M12 connectors that are dust and water-resistant. These connectors were designed for rugged environments where computer equipment may be subjected to dust and water. Consumer-grade connectors will probably fail within a short period of time if used in such environments. The M12 connector is one of the most sought-after connectors in environments such as vehicle and transportation applications like railway, food processing, and beverage manufacturing for its reliability and durability. The main feature of this connector is that it can lock into place and has an ingress protection rating.
7. Power Efficiency
Industrial computing hardware is sought after because of its ability to save you money on energy costs. Our computer systems can be used to control factory equipment so that it performs optimally while using the least amount of energy possible, which means that less energy is wasted, thereby cutting down your energy costs. Also, since many industrial PCs are often deployed in scenarios of decentralized and unstable power, engineers focus their efforts on constructing power-efficient systems that can run reliably from battery power.
The Importance of Industrial Computers
Industrial computers are essential for some industries. We will explain each of those industries in much detail below.
1. Manufacturing & Industrial Automation
Industrial grade computers are great for manufacturing plants, especially those who want to automate the assembly process. In such an environment, industrial PCs can be used to manage motion control systems for product inspection, data logging, and data analysis for improved manufacturing productivity.
For example, the auto industry has dramatically benefited from industrial edge computers, which are used to automate the various processes involved in building a car. Industrial edge PCs allow automotive manufacturing plants to monitor such plants' day-to-day operations, track assets, and analyze data provided by the many sensors installed throughout their manufacturing plants.
Industrial PCs are great for industrial automation because of their reliability and ability to operate in a multitude offer different extreme environments. Also, the variety of mounting options in tight, compact spaces helps automation infrastructure integrate into their programmable logic controller or PLCs.
2. Kiosk Machines
Kiosk machines are all around us; whether you’re at the airport or at the supermarket, you are likely to find an interactive kiosk machine around you. Kiosk machines are often powered by small industrial fanless PCs because they are both compact in size and powerful enough to power them. The rugged and fanless design of kiosk machine computers allows them to be deployed indoors and outdoors in extremely hot or cold environments.
Another distinct requirement across many kiosk machines is the abundance of smart IoT sensors and peripherals powered through high-speed ports like USB 2.0 and 3.0. Industrial fanless PCs provide enormous flexibility and can power many IoT sensors integrated into kiosk machines for self-service automation.
Also, more and more markets are beginning to adopt self-service kiosks in an effort to reduce staffing costs and improve overall customer satisfaction.
3. Automation Inspection, Metrology, and Testing Equipment
Industrial computers are essential for manufacturers because it enables them to perform quality control operations that include using digital measurement instruments to ensure that all measurements are precise, and products and components are manufactured according to predetermined specifications.
Traditionally, products were inspected by selecting a few samples from a large number of products, whereas today, more and more industrial computing hardware is being integrated to ensure that every product is inspected for defects and abnormalities.
Additionally, with the combination of machine vision, industrial computers are able to scan products and components much quicker and with greater accuracy and intelligence. All of these benefits of edge computing create an effective manufacturing process that’s quicker and reduces the number of defective products or components leaving the plant.
4. Security & Surveillance
Industrial PCs also play an essential role in security and surveillance systems. For example, when it comes to the public transportation system, having an industrial PC capable of withstanding frequent shocks and vibrations is extremely important as such systems are often deployed in vehicles that are constantly moving. When it comes to camera systems, industrial computing systems are also essential because they can support multiple PoE ports that provide stable connections to IP cameras, which record video footage, thus improving passenger safety. Ultimate, industrial systems are essential for security and surveillance because they are rugged enough to withstand the harsh environments in which they are placed, which is usually outdoors.
5. Mobile Medical Applications
Our industrial computers are often deployed in medical carts that are used inside and outside of hospitals. Medical carts are often used by ambulance operators to collect information about patients before transporting them to the hospitals. Such systems are often exposed to different environments, shocks, and vibrations, so they must be rugged enough to operate reliably regardless of the environment they’re deployed in.
6. Military Applications
Industrial computers are essential when it comes to the military. This is so because the military requires reliable industrial systems that can function reliably in different harsh environments, such as ground control or shipboard. Industrial computers are great for military applications because they have a long operating life that meets the requirements of the military. Also, industrial PCs can be ruggedized and customized to be able to perform reliably in harsh environments that are full of dust and water so that they’re effective for military operations.
What Are Industrial Panel PCs?
Now that we have discussed the importance of industrial computers let’s take a quick look at industrial panel PCs. Industrial Panel computers are classified as industrial computers, and they are basically all in one industrial-grade computer systems where the screen, processor, hard drive, motherboard, and power supply are all housed in the same enclosure.
Panel PCs have a small footprint and are often used in food and beverage processing, automotive, and transportation industries. Panel computer systems are extremely optimized for rugged environments and can withstand water, dust, debris, grease, vibrations, and shocks.
Where Can You Buy Industrial Computers?
Premio has been designing and manufacturing high-quality industrial-grade PCs for over 30 years in the United States. All our systems are manufactured using industrial-grade components.
We have a variety of rugged industrial computing solutions that can be tailored to customer requirements. Each family of industrial PCs that we offer is purpose-built and validated to ensure that it operates reliably while providing high-performance computing.
Premio’s fanless mini PCs are great for entry-level industrial automation, providing excellent performance while using little power. Systems are minimalistic while maintaining all of the essential I/O ports that you require.
If you need to add additional ports, our systems come equipped with universal extension slots that can be used for the addition of extra ports through a daughterboard expansion module.
Premio’s rugged industrial fanless computers offer a more robust industrial computing solution that can be deployed in harsh environments that are extremely hot/cold, full of dust and debris, or are subject to frequent shocks and vibrations.
We also offer a series of in-vehicle computers that are specifically designed for deployment in vehicles. This series of industrial computers can integrate with protocols, such as CANBus, allowing it to operate in a variety of transportation applications.
Additionally, these specialized in-vehicle computer systems have a power ignition management feature that is able to control how the computer interacts with a vehicle’s DC battery in 12 or 24 VDC.
Our machine vision computers support PCIe/PCI expansion slots and digital I/O functionalities, ensuring high-quality images and accurate interactions with computer vision sensor devices.
Lastly, Premio’s waterproof industrial computers are IP rated 65/67 and can be equipped with robust M12 connectors that make them ideal for applications where water and dust are present.
If you have any general questions or comments regarding industrial computers or industrial PCs, do not hesitate to give us a call. So, if you want to buy industrial PC, you will find the option that's right for your workload at Premio.