Compact Industrial PCs Bolster Compute Power, Graphics and IoT Connectivity

August 22, 2019 Theresa Wu, American Portwell

Industrial designs are evolving with a steady rise in compute and graphics capabilities as well as the availability of flexible network configurations via I/O and wireless connectivity mechanisms to serve a wide array of applications in factory automation, automated test equipment, smart warehouse, digital signage and medical equipment.

The fanless embedded systems are also employing features like low power consumption processors such as Intel® Celeron® N3350, codenamed Apollo Lake. That enables developers to create embedded designs with optimized balance of thermal and computing performance.

These processors also allow industrial PC solutions to deliver fast video acceleration, 4K immersive graphics and media performance and rich expansion for connectivity.

Next, to provide industrial designers with a higher level of customization, embedded boards now offer a rich set of I/O configurations, storage features, and Gigabit Ethernet as well as wireless connectivity options. Features of support for USB 3.0 connections and Gigabit Ethernet mean that these embedded systems can effectively manage network control for remote and unmanned applications.

Figure 1: The 14 nm Intel® Celeron® N3350, formerly known as Apollo Lake, enhances industrial automation designs with two to four CPU cores, up to 8 GB of LPDDR4 memory, six USB 3.0 ports, and four PCIe ports. Image: Intel®

The rugged industrial PCs also support an extensive power voltage input ranging from 12V to 30V DC for various industrial applications. Additionally, Intel® processors enable these fanless embedded systems to serve industrial applications across a broad range of temperatures and ensure high resilience for network connections.

Small Form Factor

The fanless embedded systems available in compact form factors can better serve the applications with space limitations typically found in industrial automation, medical equipment, communication devices, and Internet of Things (IoT) nodes.

Figure 2: A fanless and compact design also ensures reliability and silent operation while it lowers the field maintenance and service cost for harsh industrial environments. Image: Portwell

Intel®’s N series processors play a crucial role in enabling small form factor by integrating the low-power Intel® Gen9 graphics engine with up to 18 execution units; it improves 3D graphics performance and supports faster 4K encode and decode operations.

IoT-Enabled Industrial PCs

A new series of ultra-compact rugged embedded computers from Portwell is targeting industrial applications in harsh environments like factory automation, facility management, public works and transportation. The fanless PCs in Portwell’s Kuber embedded systems, based on Intel®’s Apollo Lake processors, are energy efficient. Their ruggedized system design provides efficient heat dissipation, making it an ideal solution for a harsh environment.

Take Kuber-2110 and Kuber-212E as examples, Portwell’s fanless embedded systems built around the Intel® Celeron® N3350 processor and on-board LPDDR4 memory of up to 4 GB. That, according to Portwell, adds 30 percent compute power and 45 percent graphics performance compared to the previous generation embedded boards. The Kuber series industrial PCs operate below 10 watt and support 12V DC to 30V DC with +/- 20 percent power consumption for demanding industrial applications.

Figure 3: Kuber-212E features two COM, one RS-232, and one BIOS configurable RS-232/422/485 port along with an M.2 Key B 2242 and a Mini PCIe slot. Image: Portwell

And, to bolster connectivity and data acquisition, the Kuber series embedded systems offer Wi-Fi connections along with the eMMC storage and 2x Gb industrial Ethernet options. The combination of powerful computing, graphics, networking, storage, and energy efficiency features make the industrial computers such as Kuber-2110 and Kuber-212E highly suitable for factory automation applications.

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