Multiple challenges exist when deploying computer equipment in a manufacturing environment.
Extreme temperature fluctuations, dust, dirt, grease and splashing fluids are threatening for expensive electronics. Prior to implementing electronics on the plant floor, the system designer has the option of specifying an industrially hardened computer or an aptly sealed industrial enclosure to be used with a desktop computer. Either solution can perform splendidly, but, over time, the choice between the two will be an investment decision that will balance lifetime costs, operational stability, and versatility.
In general, the initial purchase price of an industrial computer will be much higher than the cost of a less expensive general-purpose computer and enclosure system. It is important to understand the differences between the two solutions.
After either system is deployed into production, the first consideration comes into play during a hardware failure. Although the industrial-grade computer should provide significant longevity than a general-purpose PC, it is an electronic device and, over time, electronics will fail.
Industrial PCs can often be difficult to repair. The computer’s sealed design may warrant a service technician to provide repair work or worst-case scenario, require the unit to be sent back to the manufacturer for repair. Regardless, the end user will face production downtime, which is always costly. In addition, industrial computers are usually proprietary and difficult to upgrade. However, without a PC enclosure, the computer has no protection against tampering with controls or misuse.
Protecting a computer in a NEMA-rated enclosure can offer more flexibility. In the event of a computer failure, it will be far less expensive to replace a general-purpose computer vs. an industrial computer, and of course general purpose computers are available either in company inventory or a ‘day away’ from today’s electronic marketplace.
If the technology requires a change two to three years after the system has been implemented, utilizing a computer enclosure will provide greater versatility. A PC enclosure allows the system integrator to easily swap out an older computer with a brand-new computer. A computer enclosure is lockable and will provide the peace of mind that the system is secured.
Many companies do not calculate how much a computer and related hardware will cost in terms of downtime and production loss. The proper computer enclosure will help extend the lifetime of electronics and reduce downtime, while offering a cost-effective alternative to industrial computers.
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