Industrial VS Commercial PC systems – Do you know the differences?
Where are industrial grade embedded PC systems used?
Industrial grade embedded PC Systems are designed for use in environments where commercial grade PC Systems are not suitable. This is the case for a variety of reasons such as reliability, 24/7 operation, longevity of supply, sufficient thermal dissipation, extended temperatures of operation, weather extremes, poor power supply, support and serviceability.
It is often very tempting for Embedded PC System specifiers to see the chance to try save money by using commercial grade PC systems such as the Intel® NUC. However, this isn’t always the case! As it ignores the reasons for choosing Industrial PC systems (some of which are mentioned above).
The failure of commercial grade PC systems can cause problems in the field and are often installed in inaccessible situations. It then becomes an expensive problem when service personnel have to be sent out to effect repairs or replacements.
Industrial grade systems and their components
Industrial grade systems are designed using industrial grade components such as wide temperature range solid state disks and memory. Industrial grade motherboards used in the systems are built using higher specification components such as capacitors which are designed with wider temperature ranges and a longer lifespan than those used in commercial grade motherboards.
The processor in industrial grade systems is chosen to give suitable performance with low power dissipation and the heat is usually removed conductively to avoid moving parts such as fans which are a point of failure. This prevents overheating in the industrial grade PC system and allows use at higher temperatures and sealed environments. Typically industrial grade systems consume less power than commercial grade systems making them more efficient.
High grade materials are used in the construction of industrial grade systems which are hardwearing and do not degrade over time. By comparison commercial grade systems typically use plastic and thin metal which are not robust enough for the harsh environments where the systems are often used.
Industrial grade PC systems are often designed as a sealed system to allow them to be used in wet environments such as rain and snow. The systems still need to function in these situations across a wide range of temperatures.
Longevity of supply is also an important factor particularly when considering the longer term support of deployed systems. Many applications do not allow for the constantly changing specifications of commercial grade PC systems. Some OS software images cannot tolerate the hardware constantly changing and may fail to deploy or function.
Most industrial grade embedded PC systems have an availability of up to 7 years which is far greater than the usual 1 to 2 years for commercial grade PC systems. This allows a longer system design lifecycle which reduces the overall project cost over the lifetime of the project.