Computing devices are ubiquitous in modern business, including industrial and manufacturing companies. As technology develops to address the needs of users worldwide that have requirements for computers and servers to function in harsh environments, the introduction of industrial motherboards has provided various benefits for a myriad of applications. Ranging from factory plant floors to hospitals, mobile and vehicle designs to touch screen kiosks, the use cases for industrial boards are almost limitless. This article will provide insight into these products and outline some key benefits afforded by integrating these devices as a part or whole of a holistic computing solution that best meets the demands of industrial applications.
What Are Industrial Motherboards?
A motherboard is a printed circuit board installed in a computer and is the foundation of all computing functions including power distribution, central processing unit (CPU) communications, random access memory (RAM) operations, along will all other internal components. The need for computers within industrial applications and environments has paved the way for a robust ruggedized version of a standardized motherboard. Industrial boards are typically designed with more durable and flexible characteristics in comparison to their office-based counterparts offering features such as:
- Streamlined form factors for low profile/footprint space saving
- Lower audible level operations promoting reduced noise
- Enhanced environmental monitoring support for surrounding ambient conditions
- Robust temperature and humidity thresholds to withstand industrial areas and operations
- Increased port inclusion supplying multiple serial communication ports (COM ports), USB 3.0 ports, dual LAN ports, and along with various configurations
- Performance expansion options for scalability to accommodate for future growth
- Reduced power requirements for energy efficiency
- Decreased per-unit cost for added savings
Industrial boards are primarily installed in embedded systems or PCs, which are used to often perform a specific function within their assigned infrastructure. The designation of the term embedded for a PC alludes to their integration of a complete system or device working in conjunction with other hardware and/or mechanical components. An embedded system can offer the added industrial benefits of heavy-duty metal chassis, enclosed varying form factors for numerous mounting configurations, increased cooling capabilities, extended temperature thresholds, environmental protection, and lowered power consumption ratings for cost efficiency.
The combination of the two technologies creates a computing solution that industrial markets have proven to be a vital resource for increased productivity, lowered operating and maintenance costs, and improved reliability. Found in a myriad of applications, these innovative solutions have gained a strong foothold within industrial, military, consumer, medical, automated, culinary, and commercial businesses finding their own niche amongst standard personal and data center devices. Industrial boards are used to facilitate systems in controlling touch screen kiosks, managing the digital signage seen abundantly today for advertising, in healthcare solutions promoting ease of use and mobility for on-the go-personnel and also address manufacturing processes for automated system infrastructures.
Types of Industrial Motherboards
Several industrial motherboard options are available in today’s competitive market that necessitates the development of various solutions to accommodate the seemingly infinite amount of varied applications. Some specific commonly deployed formats are the micro-ATX, mini-ITX, and single board computer varieties.
Mini-ITX boards offer the typical industrial board functionality of low power requirements and small form factor with an industry standard size of 170 x 170 mm (6.7” x 6.7”). Developed in 2001, their popularity is garnered mostly through embedded systems and fanless computers where they can be purchased in bulk quantities as well as incorporated within complete systems serving singular computing processes. Due to its small size, there are limitations since there are fewer compatible electrical configurations and computing components available when compared to standard size boards with more space for advanced features.
MicroATX boards are larger than mini-ITX with its biggest iteration measuring 244 x 244mm (9.6” x 9.6”) allowing for four PCI (peripheral component interconnect) expansion slots compared to only one or two available with mini-ITX. It is also backward compatible with most ATX boards, which is still one of the most popular boards in use today allowing for integration with current applications that employ ATX components. The expanded size provides scalability benefits while including the ability to add wireless adaptor options and/or a sound card depending on the needs of an application.
Single board computers (SBC) are one of the best examples of “industrial motherboards” as they are a complete computer built on one circuit board. This includes a microprocessor, memory, and storage along with all other necessary components which are installed on a single printed board. SBCs were developed by density increases of their related integrated circuits, thus reducing costs eliminating the need for multiple boards serving their sole functions within a system and condensing their responsibilities into one component. Their small form factor also leads to upgrade limitations similar to mini-ITX boards with some variations lacking any expansion ports while others can provide a maximum of two PCI slots. Premio offers several industrial motherboard
options all powered by Intel® processors along with embedded system
devices that are sure to accommodate any and all architectures that require the features this technology delivers.
Industrial Motherboard Benefits
Now that we’ve provided insight to industrial motherboard functions, features, and preferred applications, we can discuss three primary benefits this technology presents an application: durability & reliability, longevity, and cost-effectiveness.
Durability and Reliability
Since industrial boards are widely incorporated within an embedded system, this amplifies their durability and reliability ratings. As previously mentioned, the intended environments and applications where these boards will be in service can be extremely detrimental to the performance of a standard computer or server. If the latter were to be deployed in the same climate, they would surely encounter downtime during their time in operation. With their wide operating temperature thresholds and enhanced heat dissipation, shock protection, and extended product life cycle of five years or more, industrial boards are built to last requiring little maintenance during the duration of their implementation.
Commercial motherboards can rapidly become obsolete after deployment. This can be attributed to rapid technological advancements and design upgrades, performance decline or failure from environmental hazards, or even sudden demand increases due to the growth of a business. Industrial boards already have a longer life cycle provided by their chipset design. MicroATX boards are also compatible with legacy components allowing for simple integration with existing ATX devices while having the scalability to adopt upgrades and other innovations that may release during their lifespan. This reduces the upgrade or refresh timeframe non-industrial boards and computers require which can be as early as two to three years after install depending on business needs maximizing the investment of this flexible option.
Another benefit of industrial motherboards is how much of a cost-effective solution they are for numerous applications. This is first provided by their low power consumption making them an energy efficient resource in comparison to power-hungry commercial systems where multiple boards within a chassis are serving individual functions. Because of their smaller footprint, these boards improve airflow within their preferred housing reducing overall cooling costs and are commonly found inside fanless computers. Due to the simplicity and flexibility of their manufacturing, their per-unit cost is also minimized for solutions that require a single configuration to be used across a large quantity of systems.
There are additional benefits provided by industrial motherboards that may or may not appeal to every application, but still make them an effective solution for countless infrastructures. Premio is known worldwide as a source of expertise in the areas of design, production, and distribution of digital computing products providing industry leading innovative computing solutions. Our professional and knowledgeable team members are experts in sizing server and platform options for any business and have emphasis on healthcare, automation, and retail needs capable of supporting diverse architecture challenges. Please contact us
today and let our Premio Customer Care Team begin developing a solution that meets the dynamic business demands of your specialized application.