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Fanless Industrial Panel PC for Tobacco Production Line

Our client was looking for a robust and reliable industrial panel PC for production line control at their tobacco plant.

Industrial computers and industrial panel PCs are beefed-up versions of general commercially available devices, but despite their rugged design, they often lack essentials for specific applications.

Business Challenge

Overheating

The stress placed on a computer in an industrial setting is far higher than that in a more sedate environment like an office or operations center. The computer must withstand a high range of temperatures, operate continuously (a non-trivial challenge for most PCs), and recover from unexpected conditions as quickly as possible.

Difficult Interface

The computer interface must be as easy to use as possible, and a keyboard and mouse are out of the question. Onscreen operation is essential because of the intuitive interface offered by a touchscreen. But also, a set of standard buttons like a master power control switch and emergency shutdown button, are required for high-speed operations.

Limited Connectors

The inherent limitation of PLCs is that they are isolated and have limited computing power, making them suitable for simple, specialized functions but not for more complex operations that require more processing power. Frequently, the essential extra features are those needed to connect to the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or building automation system (BAS). These connections to other systems often boil down to networking options.

Unstable Operating System

In the past, operating system reliability has been a stumbling block for industrial computers, sometimes forcing the use of old operating systems for years after support ends. The relative lack of reliability in comparison to PLCs boiled down, in large part, to how well they handled sudden power loss and whether they could recover correctly, something PLCs do very well.

Solution

Industrial panel PCs offer a flexible and powerful way to extend the features of a PLC network.

Fanless and Robust

The PPC-F15B-BT can take a beating. It has wide temperature support from -10–50°C and is fanless. Eliminating the fan is critical for reliability because a broken fan can result in system overheating and possible damage. Instead of requiring a fan, a 10W TDP Intel Celeron CPU is used that doesn’t require active cooling. The system is designed for use in an enclosure, so the front panel has IP65 and a touchscreen that can be operated with a gloved hand. A watchdog timer makes sure that the system will reboot after a system shutdown, ensuring continued reliability even after unexpected power outages.

Touchscreen, Buttons, and Switches

The touchscreen interface makes the operation of an industrial panel PC intuitive and easy. Most functions are accessible by simply pressing the screen as almost everyone is used to doing with their smartphones. There are occasions where real buttons are needed for fast and tactile operation. The industrial panel PC was installed in an enclosure, so there are a few buttons that allow full manual control over four essential functions.

  • Standalone/connected selector switch
  • Recovery push button
  • Emergency stop button
  • On/off switch

Serial and Network Connectors

The PPC-F15B-BT has three RS-232 ports that can be set up as required for connecting to any serial devices. This industrial panel PC also has a built-in network connection for connecting to the plant network. Setup is easy using drivers and software provided with the system. In this case, both networking and serial connections were provided.

Windows 10 IoT

The main point of unreliability in older industrial computers came down to the Windows operating system that suffered from reliability issues and the infamous BSOD. Along the way, IEI has utilized alternatives like Windows CE for increased reliability, but now with Windows 10 IoT, there is a custom solution designed specifically for industrial use.

Result

Tough and Reliable

With a hardened IP65 touchscreen, it can withstand the rigors of the production line. The wide temperature range of -10–50°C and low 10W TDP ensure reliable operation without fans breaking down.

Easy Operation

The touchscreen interface is easy-to-use for any operators in the production facilities. Critical operations are controlled by switches and buttons available on the installation enclosure.

Intuitive Connections

Three RS-232 ports provide the easiest and most straightforward connection to other parts of the PLC network. Although only one of the three ports is utilized in this particular setup, the other serial ports can easily be programmed for customized operations and integrations, saving development costs and speeding up system setup.

Reliable Operating

Windows 10 IoT eliminates reliability issues and gives excellent flexibility because of its widespread use and its easy modification by general personnel, rather than requiring “a specialist” to come in every time there is a system issue.

PPC-F15B-BT

  • 15″ (4:3) Display
  • Intel® Celeron® J1900
  • Resistive touchscreen
  • IP65 aluminum front bezel
  • 9–36 V DC input
  • Op. Temp. -10–50°C (14–122°F)
  • 2 x RS-232
  • 1 x RS-232/422/485
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