Helping a Customer Find Just the Right Solution for their Information Application
We have been working with a customer that has created a very unique information display application using FTP servers distributed in a manufacturing facility. They sell this solution to many different companies that are all in the same industry. This application had been solved using single board computers that were mounted in a NEMA12 dust proof enclosure along with typical computer power supplies and all of the cabling. We were initially interested in the application because single board computers are not typically deployed on the manufacturing floor due to a number of environmental limitations - limited temperature operating range, vibration sensitivity, non-enclosed design, etc. We also noticed that the computer power supplies were not designed for mounting in an industrial NEMA 12 enclosure and required the use of wire ties to adequately secure them within the enclosure. Using wire ties to secure components in an industrial application is not usually considered a best practice.
A number of basic requirements were presented for an alternate computer:
- Windows operating system that supported FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
- Compact self-enclosed mechanical design
- Easy mounting in an enclosure
- At least 15G of hard drive storage - primarily for the operating system
- USB and Ethernet interfaces
- Lowest cost possible vs single board computers
Cross Company represents several vendors that offer industrial computers and we reviewed the most current offering vs the above list of requirements. One unit in particular caught our attention and we started to investigate in more detail. The unit identified was a part of the UNO series from Advantech (see banner picture).
This unit was just the right fit for the application:
- Windows 10 IoT embedded Operating System includes FTP
- Unit is very compact 100mm x 70mm x 30mm in size
- Design is self-contained with options for panel mounting and a DIN rail mounting accessory
- Industrial rating for vibration and operating temperature up to 122F
- 4G of RAM memory and 32G drive for storage
- Both USB and Ethernet 1000Mbs x 2 interfaces
- 24VDC powered (compatible with typical industrial power supplies)
- Low cost of less than $500 per unit
The physical size of this unit allowed for an almost 90% reduction in the size of the NEMA 12 enclosure, reducing in size from an 18" x 16"x 8" to a 8"x 6"x 6" size. This was a substantial improvement and opened up a lot of flexibility for the customer when installing these system.
We were also able to offer a custom configuration service for some specific non-standard settings within the operating system and computer BIOS settings that were needed for the application. This configuration service saved many hours of configuration time needed with the single board computers and also provided a stable configuration that was repeatable for every new system. During this discussion, we also learned that BIOS settings in the single board computers could be different depending on the shipping date. This was eliminated with the configuration service.
A solution that was Just Right for the application.