Industrial PC goes embedded

When industrial PCs first hit the market, they were only slightly modified from the consumer PCs used at home and in the office. In recent years, manufacturers of computer hardware have been paying closer attention to the needs of industry. One significant result of this attention is that reduced instruction set computer (RISC) processors have become the first choice of CPU for embedded applic...

By Control Engineering Staff July 1, 2008

When industrial PCs first hit the market, they were only slightly modified from the consumer PCs used at home and in the office. In recent years, manufacturers of computer hardware have been paying closer attention to the needs of industry.

One significant result of this attention is that reduced instruction set computer (RISC) processors have become the first choice of CPU for embedded applications. RISC processors use less power, can operate without a fan, and have a wide operating temperature range.

The current trend for industrial communication front-end management applications is to look for economical, all-in-one computers suitable for use in a range of computing applications. Typical requirements include several serial ports, at least two Ethernet ports, and an embedded Linux operating system, which is often the first choice for creating efficient communication management applications. Engineers also know that the typical hard drive is not a good data storage device for industrial communication and control applications. Better choices are to use an internal Flash card, external CompactFlash (CF) or external USB storage device. Having a sufficient number of external connection ports is also important if you need to add additional peripheral devices.

To address these issues, Moxa Technologies has designed a computer suited for industrial control applications. The company’s Universal Communicator (UC) series satisfies industry’s many requirements. Foremost among these are the no-fan requirement and an airtight, dust-proof enclosure. Moreover, Universal Communicator does not have a hard disk, uses less power than an industrial PC, and provides more stable operation, according to Moxa.

Universal Communicator’s RISC processor needs only 12 W to operate, compared to the typical industrial PC that requires at least 300 W. The computer’s eight serial ports, two 10/100M Ethernet ports, and Compact Flash and USB storage expansion slots suit it to meet automatic industrial control application requirements. Since floor space (or the lack of floor space) is an important consideration, the largest Moxa Universal Communicator product has dimensions of 197 x 125 x 44 mm, smaller than the usual PC or industrial PC. www.moxa.com