Choosing the right industrial computer that can handle your workload while working efficiently in your environment can be challenging. At CoastIPC, we work with customers of all shapes and sizes to help build the brains of the most intelligent machines in the world.
Our product experts take the time to understand your challenges and applications and offer focused advice, guidance, and system design as needed. Our knowledge of cutting-edge technology and rapidly changing conditions is your insider advantage. Our build and service staff are located just south of Boston and are ready to support you before the sale, during implementation, and if problems arise.
When we speak with customers about their industrial PC needs, we think about seven essential steps to choosing the right industrial computer:
- Application (Customer Needs)
- Space (Dimensions)
Let's explore the process CoastIPC uses to determine the best specifications for your new industrial PC.
Application (Customer Needs)
The CoastIPC team considers the customer's end goal first, but many variables can affect the specific product recommendations we make. While two customers might end up with similar final products, their unique circumstances could lead them down very different paths to get there. Otherwise, the final PC might work on paper but be the wrong fit for that particular company's setting.
For example, a machine built for a manufacturing setting and one built for warehouse/distribution might appear to have the same specifications. However, this particular manufacturing PC must connect to wireless channels, including 4G, 5G, or BlueTooth. The option for warehouse/distribution only requires a robust WiFi connection that never drops. Even if everything else remains the same, understanding nuanced use cases ensures the right build every time.
CoastIPC tries to understand the type of need through our customer discovery questions:
How will you use it?
This particular computer might act as a front end to another control computer within a distributed system. Alternatively, it might be a wall-mounted panel PC designed for heavy user interaction, or it might be installed directly onto the plant floor, where it mostly runs autonomously in process control. The more we know about the use, the better it helps us narrow down PC components so that we can best balance performance with installation requirements.
What type of application or solution is this designed for?
The second part of ensuring performance is understanding the exact application. Some examples are:
- Industrial automation often requires artificial intelligence. We carry several computers with NVIDIA Jetson equipped to deliver edge AI solutions.
- Speaking of artificial intelligence, warehouse/distribution might leverage machine vision inspection. This type of deep learning is compute-intensive, so our design would include a GPU or VPU component.
- A telecom might leverage IoT to gather sensor data for predictive maintenance and monitor its critical equipment over many miles. CoastIPC would include Jetson's edge AI platform to process sensor data and data acquisition and communication components like remote I/O modules.
These are merely starting points helping us discuss the right direction for your unique solution. Our thorough process and discovery questions help untangle precisely how to begin and where to look.
How much space do you have? Space can certainly be a function of performance, but that isn't always the case. We want to strike a balance between the two because expectations for performance don't always line up exactly with what space is available at installation.
If there's a conflict, we start with the minimum performance specification required to run your target software application. For example, you might have a significant GPU need. However, with installation dimensions, output requirements, and ventilation needs, you're left with less than ideal space. We can find solutions, such as putting a POC-40 at the edge and a more sophisticated connected box in a better location.
We look at what components of the ideal PC are affected by the realities of installation space. We consider alternative components that might allow more space or alternative mounts that can stand in their place.
There's a reason industrial PCs differ from a desktop or a laptop you could buy in a retail store. The environment can be punishing and often requires 24/7 run times that would destroy a typical PC. Environmental considerations for your industrial pc typically include:
- Vibrations: On a factory floor or in a long-range semi-truck, for example, strong, continuous vibrations from adjacent machinery could put more wear and tear on PC internal and external components and connections.
- Dust: It's not just dust but all particulate matter floating around that can have a devastating effect on internal components. For this reason, many industrial PCs are ventless and fanless.
- Water: There are variations in waterproofing. We determine your true IP rating needs based on the potential for liquid intrusion. For example, is there steam or water near the box that could damage your machine? We have a solution.
- Extreme Temperatures: Your box is the first line of defense against temperature extremes. Industrial PCs require a broad range of temperature components depending on the application. Some wide temperature components can span -40 to 85 deg C without compromising performance.
- Other Hazards: Are there obscure factors of your product that may create adverse conditions in the air, like oil mist or off gassed chemicals?
Next, we will ask you to create a summary of all the components you would need for your particular industrial use case. Keep in mind that most of your desired components will have to communicate with your software operating system. Once we have full specs, we can determine your initial needs. If you are weighing your options on which components to use, read our blog on how to choose the right industrial pc components.
Consider how your existing computer is handling the workload. Then, plug your model number into a benchmarking site to peruse comparisons of different generations or manufacturers. If this is a brand new build, begin with the software requirements you'll need. We have multiple sources at our fingertips to provide the information you may need.
Once again, look at the memory of your existing PC as a starting point. CoastIPC can help you choose between the most cost-effective solution or upgrading to the latest performance-oriented option. For new builds, the general application creates a direct path to a good choice.
The storage drive specifications not only determine storage capacity but data transfer speeds. Faster transfer often means better performance. We can help you determine the right balance between cost-effective solutions and the latest performance-oriented storage components.
Your I/O needs affect the entire configuration, so you should sketch a quick architecture map to visualize the project. We can help determine how many LAN ports, whether they're powered or specialized, and what PoE type. Other options include USB, Serial ports, Digital I/O, camera trigger, ignition function, PCIe - full slot port, and 4G, 5G, or Cellular LTE.
Does your build need wired or wireless connections? What about coverage for different network generations (4G, 5G)? For example, some applications will need a continuous connection that cannot be interrupted, requiring a wired connection. IoT sensors, however, may require the latest 5G connection, enhanced wifi, LoRa, or a private network..
The ambient temperature of the installation location may require ultra-specialized equipment, such as rugged options with -40°C to 85°C temp ratings.
What type of power source already exists at the installation site, or will you need to direct wire one? In addition, does the power supply fluctuate like those in an in-vehicle computer? Components can significantly drive power requirements. For example, high end GPUs now draw well over 300 watts.
Consult the technical specs (the physical dimensions along with other considerations) to determine the cabinet layout and any embedded components. Is a fanned solution reliable enough, or is a fanless box a more reliable choice?
Mounting depends on your installation location, primary use, and technical specs. Industrial mounting options include VESA, DIN rail, wall mounting, and rack mount. Don’t forget to consider vibration, where a few inexpensive rubber gromets can go a long way in adding product life.
Remember that lifecycle measures the length of time that product will receive support from the manufacturer, not the reliability of that machine. When evaluating your options with the CoastIPC team, we are looking to match the lifecycle of your device to your project/device/machine roadmap and keep your operation running smoothly with consistent repeatable products.
We can help you determine a proposed budget range based on your needs, or we can value engineer a solution that best balances your needs with a strict budget. Whether you have minimum required performance specifications or you need to fit Star Wars Death Star power into a keychain, we can balance performance with cost.
We carry the most in-demand products for technology, but in the case of supply chain shortages, we are well equipped to find alternatives that meet or exceed demand without ruining your budget. Supply shortages and delays may be causing rapidly shifting timelines for delivery, but we do everything in our power to have the best product ready when you need it.
Our goal is to deliver a perfectly performing computer set up and ready to go right out-of-the-box. We go through rigorous testing and take care of the little details, like installing and updating all the software applications you'll need to get your computer up and running right away with no delays. We pride ourselves in delivering not only the PC but handling the little details that make your next steps set-up and installation as straightforward and fast as possible.
Choose the right industrial PC with the help of experts
CoastIPC has industry knowledge combined with cutting-edge products to help you quickly spec, order, and install your new industrial PC. Whether you know specifications down to the last LAN port or have a confounding set of needs and budgetary requirements, we can help you build the PC you need for your unique installation location and use case.
We offer a proactive, supportive service that can anticipate your needs and find solutions when the supply chain isn't cooperating with anyone else. Need Help Finding the Right Solution For Your Project? Contact us to get started.