Industrial Computers – Challenges of Computing in Industry

Computing is as much a necessity in manufacturing and industry as it is in the office sector. As well as the many automated manufacturing processes that have to be controlled by a computer, many applications such as stock control and dispatch are now far more efficiently achieved with the help of a processor. However, the needs of industry and manufacturing are far different than those required of an office PC.

Most office hardware runs in optimum conditions: nicely air-conditioned suites, free from dust, water and without the risk of being banged or knocked by heavy machinery. Unfortunately the demands of manufacturing and industry are quite different.

Many industrial environments are dusty, dirty and grimy. Often temperatures can exceed recommendations for most computer equipment (especially if the industrial environment contains a furnace or freezer where operating conditions could be described as extreme) and fork lift trucks and pallet trucks are zipping in and out of aisles.

The requirements of an industrial PC are therefore a lot different to that of the needs for an office computer. The needs of an industrial computer will also vary dramatically depending on the industry itself. Computers used in food manufacture may have to be waterproof and intrinsically sealed to prevent explosions in potentially explosive and dusty atmospheres whilst also being made of stainless steel or other easy to clean material; yet computers in heavy industry may have to also protect from dust and dirt but be able to withstand excessive temperatures, knocks and vibrations.

Demands are high for computing in industry. Industrial machines have to cope with many hostile elements whilst also providing reliable computing. Traditionally industrial computers have been specific, bespoke machines. These industrial computers tend to run old hardware and versions of software. Whilst this has the advantage of making the machines stable and reliable, the out-dated technology may mean the processes controlled by the machine are not done as efficiently. These machines are also very expensive and have to be replaced periodically as the hardware and software will eventually become obsolete.

A better solution to the varied and extreme demands of computing in industry is to use just a conventional PC but housed in an industrial PC enclosure. This has all the benefit of a traditional industrial computer such as being able to withstand dirt, grime, dust, gas, knocks, bangs, heat and cold whilst having the flexibility of a normal PC. Allowing you to choose, repair, replace or upgrade your machine rather than awaiting an engineer. These enclosures can also be reused and will last longer than an industrial PC which will eventually fail (as all PCs do). However, the enclosure can be reused long after the original computer will have expired.

With the demands of industrial computing so variable and extreme, industrial PC enclosures offer a flexibility that even conventional industrial computer can fail to match whilst also offering the same protection and reliability for a fraction of the cost. PC enclosures are ideal for even the most hostile industrial environment and while specialist PCs will always be required for certain tasks the majority of uses for an industrial computer can be achieved using a conventional PC housed in an enclosure.

Richard N Williams is a technical author and a specialist in the industrial computer industry helping to develop industrial computerenclosures and protection for all environments. Please visit us for more information about industrial pc solutions.