At Captec we supply industrial PC systems to many market sectors. However the Customer requirements will vary from the need for a more reliable industrial PC which may only require better grade of components with the air flow optimising, to a fully ruggedised PC capable of withstanding high levels of shock and vibration and far higher (or lower) operating temperature extremes.
In a previous job, my background as an Environmental Consultant covering these requirements (and NBC Warfare) for military computing/ATE systems has proved very useful at Captec. The systems I worked upon were expected to stand up to some very extreme requirements, some of the tests were rather uncomfortable – working at -40C for a day was memorable, as was standing in a snow storm witnessing testing of equipment for a whole day out on some army ranges (still remember my wet and cold feet!). Other tests such as mould growth took more time but made a mess of the kit, I never liked the cleaning afterwards!
Where we have had requirements for ruggedised PC systems it has meant that I have been able to assess our designs along with our Engineering department to ensure we have submitted a robust system for approvals testing. In the case of one system we submitted this meant it went into the full environmental testing and passed with no issues. That system is now operating in an off-road environment, in a desert environment fitted into four wheel drive vehicles and operating while in motion. Several hundred systems have been supplied with no returns, which has been very satisfying.
Most Customers however do not have the same level of requirements but, none the less, getting the operating environment from them can be challenging. Our Sales team have to ask many questions. In some cases, it may believed their are no environmental factors which need considering. However, in mahcines such as conveyor systems, occasionally we have to point air rams and other parts fitted actually cause vibration and shock to be transmitted to fitted industrial PC’s. As an ISO9001 accredited company this is one of the aspects we try hard to help our Customers with. It’s not so much what they know about the environment their hardware is deployed into but what they do not know – that is where Captec’s expertise can help.
One issue which a lot of people are not aware of, is that as the technology in HDD storage has ‘improved’ and the amount of data which can be stored has increased, the susceptibility to vibration of these devices has also increased as the head positioning becomes more critical. The mounting of HDD’s then can affect the outcome and a badly chosen anti-vibration mount can make things worse! Quite often there is the assumption that a quick change over to an SSD will cure all of that, after all no moving parts? Well, yes and no. No moving parts but other issues can arise. You have to choose the SSD carefully, especially dependant on the amount of data transfer. Do you go for an MLC or SLC? Get it wrong and several months later the drive has worn out and come to the end of its effective working life. Again at Captec we have the expertise and technical back-up from our suppliers to ensure the correct choice is made.
At Captec we have some test facilities which enable us to be able to carry out operational and non-operational testing upon ruggedised PC systems between the extremes of -40C to +180C. This is of course outside the operating range of most normal industrial PC’s, and also many Military ones. We are also conveniently situated on the same industrial estate as TUV, so we have access to most test facilities required at an accredited test house with which we have a very good working relationship. All of these things mean that we have a wealth of experience in house and we have access both internally and externally to testing facilities to be able to prove the designs as our Customers require.