Computers are as essential a tool for manufacturing and industry as they are for the office environment. However, the requirements for an industrial computer far out-strip those of a conventional desktop PC.
An industrial computer needs to be able to withstand such hazards as dust, dirt, grime and water, whilst still being rugged enough to withstand the odd knock and bang from a forklift or pallet truck.
Because of these demands an industrial PC is built solid state or embedded, with little of no moving parts, are intrinsically sealed to protect from dust and water and tend to run outdated but proven technology to ensure that they are reliable.
However, designing computers in such a way also has its disadvantages. When an industrial computer breaks down very rarely can it be repaired in-house and the sealed unit would have to be sent for repair or taken out of service until an engineer has called.
Also because most industrial computers are sealed it is often near-impossible to upgrade them and as many industrial PC’s are already using outdated technology they soon need to be replaced to ensure that production is utilising the most efficient possible means.
Industrial computer are also highly expensive and while many do last for many years because of the exponential rate computers advance they soon become outdated.
Fortunately a better solution for industrial computers is to use a standard office PC an house it in an industrial computer enclosure. These enclosures afford the same protection as a specific industrial computer but allow the flexibility of repairing or changing the computer inside the enclosure.
Many enclosures are IP rated (ingress protection) and some can even withstand explosive atmospheres (Atex). However, the main advantage is that an enclosure will cost a fraction of the price of a standard industrial computer and that includes the cost of the enclosed desktop PC. They will also outlast several generations of computer so the savings can be forwarded year after year.