What Is an Industrial Computer?
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What Is an Industrial Computer?

Industrial PC, referred to as IPC mainly refers to a personal computer that is specially used in the industrial world and can be used as an industrial controller.
Published: May 26, 2022
What Is an Industrial Computer?

What Is an Industrial Computer?

The earliest use of industrial computers was used in the factory production process, and the control and monitoring of instruments and machinery were limited to the industrial automation card system, and its use was automation equipment. The barriers to entry of industrial computers are high. Large factories are reluctant to produce products that do not reach economies of scale, while small factories cannot easily enter due to a lack of funds. Most of the products are tailor-made according to customer needs.

Due to the requirements of many industrial-grade applications such as factory automation, or general embedded application systems such as point-of-sale systems, etc., it is necessary to be more stable, more durable, more secure, more difficult to use in a harsh environment, easier to manage and to have up to 5 The requirements for the supply period of the same product for more than one year. Therefore, PC products designed for various industrial characteristics emerge as the times require, such as Industrial PC (IPC) and Embedded PC (EPC). It is mainly used in the production line control of factories (such as industrial automation systems such as scheduling and feeding). With the advancement of science and technology, the application scope of IPC began to expand to various industries.

What are the Application Areas for Industrial Computers?

With the development of 3C, the application of industrial computers has expanded from the original industrial automation to office automation and has entered the era of home automation. In recent years, industrial computers have gradually been applied to all aspects of life, and integrated communications, networks, software, and optoelectronics, with emphasis on application areas, such as MRT card readers, automatic ticket machines, bank ATMs, and endpoint sales systems. (POS), gaming, network storage (NAS), digital signage, intelligent building automation monitoring system and environmental monitoring system, lottery computer, vending machine, large video game machine, health care equipment, computer telephone integration (CTI), VoIP Gateway/PBX, etc.

Industrial computer sales targets are usually system integrators (SIs) or value-added vendors (VARs), and less direct sales to end-users. Most of the customers of Taiwanese manufacturers are system manufacturers or industrial sectors in Europe, America, and Japan. When a client purchases a product, the system integration and collocation must be considered, and the complexity and price of the product itself are higher than that of general consumer products, so the customer authentication time is also longer. As for embedded computers, it emphasizes that they can adapt to various working environments and are embedded in many different product applications, such as human-machine interface, medical care, information systems, global satellite positioning systems (GPS), and so on.

The application of IPC has begun to expand to various industries, such as medical care, finance, communication, environmental protection, aerospace, etc. If it is too narrow to define IPC as an "industrial" computer, it is also called an "industrial" computer.

What Is the Difference Between an IPC and a PC?

General Personal Computer (PC) refers to a general-purpose personal computer, which is designed to allow us to do anything, such as using Word, completing PPT, opening Chrome to surf the Internet, or having a video conference. Also because the general consumer needs more and more applications, which indirectly drives the continuous improvement of PC specifications. Therefore, the PC industry (and consumer electronics industries such as mobile phones and tablets) is always pursuing higher specifications, such as faster Breakthroughs such as advanced processors, and better memory.

The word Industrial means that IPC "does one thing well and full", such as pre-production line control, or arms control required by medical robots. In contrast, you do not need to be as proficient as a general PC, you only need to complete specific tasks accurately. Therefore, the basic performance and compatibility of IPC are similar (or even lower) to that of ordinary PCs, but IPCs require higher stability and reliability. IPCs are usually designed for special situations, which means that products (both hardware and software) that each customer needs to customize may have different IPC requirements due to different application scenarios. For example, IPC may need to pay attention to heat dissipation, or need to deal with dust, water, and static electricity.

The source of value created by IPC manufacturers is the completion of system integration. What is required is not to upgrade hardware specifications, but to deeply understand the current needs of customers, predict and plan future IPC application scenarios, and complete system integration and production line monitoring solutions. IPC customers don't pay much attention to the price of the product or the cost of the foundry, and they pay more attention to the quality and function of the product. Since most of the product lines of IPC applications are key application processes, they have strict requirements on quality and stability. If the IPC crashes, it often affects the project progress of the entire product line, and may even endanger personal safety.

Features of Industrial Computer:

  • Tailor-made according to different industrial needs, such as special I/O, network, and power supply interface. Higher stability, durability, and reliability are required, such as long-term exposure to harsh operating environments (high temperature, low temperature, high-temperature difference, shock resistance, waterproof, fire protection, wide voltage range, etc.).
  • It is easy to manage, especially the out-of-band (OOB, Out-Of-Band) management and repair when the operating system is damaged.
  • The longer the product supply period, the better, at least 7 years, or even as long as 15 years. Special consideration must be given to formulating product specifications and material selection.
  • Many relevant product certification standards.

Development Constraints of the IPC Industry:

Compared with the vigorous development of the PC industry in the past 20 years, the growth of IPC is relatively weak. The business model of mainstream IPC players is to provide system integration and solutions to generate value. From the perspective of industrial demand, it is difficult for this kind of business-oriented B2B market to be promoted to a large number of consumers like the B2C consumer electronics industry, and not every industry can afford a complete set of solutions. From the perspective of industrial supply, because there is no need for such high-end technology and few new competitors, the lack of competition in the industry also makes the relevant supply chain less mature, and the industry has no rapid improvement momentum.

Challenges Facing the IPC Industry:

  • In-depth consumer application scenarios: The application focus of industrial computers is transformed from manufacturing to close to consumers.
  • Small and diverse production management focus: industrial computers used to be mostly used in the manufacturing site, so the number is very large. The current industrial computer industry will be faced with more and more, a small number of diverse production models. There are many parts of industrial computers, many of which are precision key components, such as CAMERA, DRAM, CPU, etc. And the price of these key components is high, so it is important to control the materials under the trend of small amounts and variety.
  • Software and hardware integration, the challenge of excellent experience: In the past, industrial computer manufacturers were more aware of the needs of a single industry, such as manufacturing. But now we need to step into different industries. How to understand different industries, and how to achieve professional functions and a good experience are the challenges that need to be broken through.

Future Trends of the IPC Industry:

  1. Supply chain trends within the industry:
    • Manufacturing division specialization - From the perspective of the overall manufacturing process supply chain, divisions are becoming more and more specialized. In the past, from SMT/DIP to complete machine assembly, it may be done by the same company. However, such a one-stop process will require more and more expensive equipment, personnel, and professionalism. Therefore, recently, industrial computer manufacturers have begun to dismantle the manufacturing process, slowly outsourcing processes such as SMT/DIP, and focusing on system integration.
    • The second relocation of production bases and supply chains, and risk diversification - In the past, many manufacturers in Taiwan moved their production bases for higher-cost manufacturing processes or the supply chain of the electronics industry to China or Southeast Asia and only retained the final product assembly locally. Recently, it has been felt that customers are slowly shifting their production and supply chain focus to Southeast Asia. In addition to being affected by the Sino-US trade war, it is necessary to avoid risks, but also because of the transfer of the market to Southeast Asia, it is necessary to be closer to the local market.
  2. The shift in the business model:
    Taiwan's overall industrial computer industry ranks among the top three in the global IPC field. However, many manufacturers all over the world are catching up, especially in China, where there is a lot of homogeneous competition. Therefore, recently, many Taiwanese manufacturers have changed from pure OEM to ODM including design, and some have even changed to OBM for brand management. Taiwanese manufacturers are gradually beginning to spend time and effort on brand management. Brand management is not only concerned with the production but also must consider whether the overall quality history and after-sales maintenance system can satisfy customers. And the maintenance system cannot only be located in Taiwan but must be located in locations close to the market, such as Europe and the United States.
Published by May 26, 2022 Source :businessweekly

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