Embedded Computer Systems and Motherboards for Industrial Automation and PLC
The Industrial Automation and Process Control markets have long been a driving force behind the design and development of embedded computer systems, and have been a huge consumer of industrial grade motherboards and other electronic components. The special requirements dictated by Industrial Automation, such as high performance with maximum power efficiencies, rugged designs to survive in harsh environments, ever smaller form factors, and a wide range of I/O and communication interfaces, are major defining factors in embedded computer design for Industrial Automation and Process Control applications.
These challenges, often described using the catch-all phrase “Size, Weight and Power”, or SWAP, identify application-specific trade-offs which can determine the nature of embedded computer design for Industrial Automation and Process Control today and in the future. This effort to replace single-task controllers such as PLCs with more versatile computing elements is ongoing and gaining impetus rapidly as the capabilities of today’s embedded systems continues to expand and improve.
Embedded Computer System Features for Industrial Automation / Process Control
Some of the more common features of embedded computers utilized in the Industrial Automation / Process Control application space include ever higher performing processors that are at the same time extremely power efficient. Embedded processors such as the Intel Atom® the Cortex-M® series from ARM® are redefining the capabilities of Industrial Automation / Process Control systems. With better power efficiencies and enhanced thermal design the need of these systems for high reliability can be addressed through fanless operation, rugged board design and specialized packaging.
The environmental requirements of embedded computer systems for Industrial Automation and Process Control often include resistance to moisture/water, dust (IP65 and above), extended operating and storage temperatures, and high vibration. And the location where the embedded computer system is installed often dictates the use of small form factor implementations.
The Evolution of Embedded Computers for Industrial Automation and Process Control
As embedded computers for Industrial Automation and Process Control have evolved, the applications in these markets have expanded from monitoring and control to address the need for a Human Machine Interface (HMI) through the integration of graphics capabilities, (while still adhering to the market’s need for low cost implementations), and the use of various “touchscreen” capabilities for control and interaction. The requirement to support high-speed wired and wireless communications devices, such as Gigabit Ethernet, cellular protocols, Power Over Ethernet (Poe), various serial I/O (RS232/422/485) interfaces, all with a plethora of security features, and support for industrial data buses such as CAN bus, have driven the need for very flexible system designs.
The diversity of I/O interfaces utilized in this application space can be enormous. Sensor support (to detect, position or identify an object or rotating axis utilizing inductive, magneto-resistive, capacitive, optical, pressure, ultrasonic, etc.), instrument support (temperature, pressure, level, flow), isolation, control (motors, switches, lasers), imaging (edge detection, CCD) are commonly required. All the while maintaining the focus on low-power and the inclusion of functional safety features (IEC61508).
DFI Tech—High Quality, Long Lived Embedded Computer Hardware for Your Industrial Automation Needs
DFI Tech has a unique understanding of the needs inherent in the Industrial Automation / Process Control markets. As a leader in the design and manufacturing of embedded computer systems since 1985, we have the product design, engineering, custom manufacturing and reliability testing capabilities required to meet the extreme demands of these industries.
We have one of the widest ranges of embedded computer hardware offerings for Industrial Automation and Process control world-wide. We specialize in small form-factor, fanless, and rugged designs with an extensive I/O and communications suite. We provide rapid prototyping capabilities, flexible supply chain strategies, long-life/revision controlled products and excellent customer support. Our products are not just “designed to meet” a requirement, but are fully tested to ensure they meet or exceed the specifications our customers depend on us to deliver. And our firm commitment to quality has resulted in one of the lowest product failure rates in the industry. We design with the needs of our customers first and foremost. If you can dream it, we can build it.