Many technical characteristics and components of industrial computers are also the same: microprocessor, storage, RAM, interface ports etc. However, what makes them really different is their ruggedized system.
Industrial computers are created for users who work in challenging conditions (extreme temperatures, humid environment, dust, vibrations etc.), where normal computers would be easily damaged. If commercial computers come in plastic-made desktop casing, with keyboards and monitors that can be attached separately, industrial computers are packed in rugged metal enclosures that protect them against water, cold, heat, corrosive substances, and many other possible dangers.
Applications supported by industrial computers
- Machine-control, handling equipment, motion control
- Process control
- Data collection
- Manufacturing, cell controllers
In terms of temperature, commercial computers should stay below 35 degrees C (95 degrees F), while industrial computers can operate over 45 degrees C (113 degrees F).
Dust and particles
Most industrial computers are built to operate without fans, which keeps dust and particles away. Some systems are provided with positive air pressure flow within the chassis, which helps keep clean airflow inside and cools down magnetic media, system components and power supplies.
Power supply and electrical design
Industrial computers are supplied with highly reliable industrial power and stabilized DC voltages under any conditions, from surges to noise on AC power sources – very common in industrial environment. They are also equipped with proper electrical design and grounding options in order to minimize hazards.
Electromagnetic Interference appears frequently in industrial environments, where there are large machines and motors. It may cause equipment failure, loss of communication and voltage spikes that will degrade components over time. Industrial computers ensure robust insulation, therefore protection against electromagnetic interference.
Shock and vibration
In industrial computers, different components and disk drives are mounted on special shock absorbers.
In industrial environments, computers are often affected by moisture; some must even resist during pressure washing and disinfection. Regular computers would not possibly survive, but industrial computers are very resistant to water.
Price vs. Longevity
Industrial computers are made to last. Commercial computers will be eventually disposed of, but industrial computers last for extended periods of time, due to their reinforced structure and higher quality materials. They are more expensive but they are economic in the long run, considering that their parts remain static and do not require updates during 5 years or more.
Electrical consumption is an important factor to consider before purchasing any appliance. In case of industrial computers, they have low power CPUs and their electrical consumption is significantly lower than in the case of commercial computers; this will translate into money savings. This is a great advantage that results from the fact that an industrial computer is specifically designed for a job, resulting in a compact design that will require minimum power consumption.
In industrial computers, motherboards are flexible to be customized for the customers’ specific needs.