Industrial PCs: the ultimate guide to industrial computers

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If you work in an industrial production line or in automation 4.0, or you are a machinery manufacturer, you will already know what an industrial computer is. You’re probably already integrating them into your business. However, if you want to know more on this topic, this is the right place to do so.

If, on the other hand, this is your first time dealing with this type of PC, or you were considering integrating them into your business, here’s a short quiz for you:

  • Is your working environment humid or dusty?
  • Are there any production residues, or considerable temperature variations?
  • Do you need a 24/7 operational PC?
  • Has the PC you currently use already broken once?
  • Is the PC you currently use undersized for your application?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to at least one of these questions, no worries. This article will cover in detail the features of industrial computers and how they benefit several kinds of businesses. At the end, you will thus be able to determine whether they are suitable for you.

What is actually an industrial PC?

First, it is important to distinguish between personal computer and industrial computer. While traditional consumer PCs are suitable for home/office use, industrial PCs are devices especially designed for harsh environments, such as industrial production and automation 4.0, and humid or dusty contexts more at large. It

It is clear that the PC we use at home to watch Netflix or at the office to perform our every-day tasks cannot perform like an industrial computer in a dusty environment, or inside a 24/7 operational machine.

Many of our new customers have switched to industrial PCs because they were previously using classic PCs in their production environments, perhaps to save a little money. Ultimately, however, they had to replace their PCs every 2 to 3 months because prolonged use or exposure to dust or humidity led to irreparable device malfunction and failure.

The result? Costs of changing computers 4/5 times a year, frequent production halts, stress and headaches guaranteed – when by using an industrial PC all these problems wouldn’t have even occurred.

Indeed, industrial computers are PCs with hardware and technical features designed and built to operate 24/7 in just such contexts. Here’s why.

What are the main characteristics of industrial computers?

The distinguishing features of industrial PCs are mostly lack of fans, industrial hardware, 24/7 operation, resistance to considerable temperature variations, resistance to vibrations, and low consumption. 

Here they are more in detail.

1. Lack of fans

Overall, there are no mechanical components in industrial PCs. This means that the great majority of these computers are fanless, i.e. without cooling fans or ventilation holes to dissipate the heat generated by the processor – except where this is a specific customer request.

The heat is dissipated through the case, making the PC totally silent and operational even in damp or dirty environments, as there are no fans to attract moisture particles or debris that would seep into the PC and cause it to overheat or malfunction.

Two of the main advantages of fanless industrial computers are quiet operation and high performance even with moisture and dust.

Returning to the example above, our customers who previously used consumer PCs in these contexts now no longer need to change the computer inside their machine every 3 months: the industrial PC they have integrated has exceeded the expectations of even the most skeptical.

2. Industrial hardware

Another distinctive characteristic of industrial computers is hardware type.

How many times has your consumer PC undergone power surges and consequently malfunctioned, possibly damaging the entire machine? Above all, how often have you had to reconfigure your PCs with the correct settings when the manufacturer changed hardware?

With industrial PCs, these problems are solved at the root. The industrial hardware they use has a much longer lifecycle than that of consumer PCs: indeed, it is ensured for periods of 3-5 years up to 10, ensuring the availability of the same components with special product lines and a guarantee of long-term support.

3. 24/7 operation

Industrial PCs are widely employed as controller in production plants, in digital kiosks, or security systems precisely because of their 24/7 operation, given by their components and industrial hardware.

In particular, their hardware is designed to avoid excess voltages that could result in machine downtime and loss of production data, so as to ensure a continuous operation even in harsh applications.

4. Resistance to considerable temperature variation

When installed outdoors or exposed to large temperature fluctuations, traditional consumer PCs do not guarantee full performance. On the contrary, these conditions can lead to the fan freezing or the processor overheating, leading to damages to the PC and malfunctioning of the devices to which it is connected.

Thanks to the possibility to integrate the extended temperature range, however, industrial computers can fully operate even at +85°C (if, for example, you need to integrate the PC into a machine that will be exposed to the summer sun all day) or at -40°C.

5. Resistance to vibration

An important property resulting from the absence of mechanical components and the use of aluminium cases is vibration resistance. This allows industrial computers to be used even in production environments subject to shocks or vibrations caused by processing.

6. Low consumption

24/7 operation does not necessarily mean huge bills at the end of the month. On the contrary, most industrial PCs have a very low power consumption, generally between 65W and 120W. 

In addition, industrial PCs can have an extended voltage range of 9-24V, some even up to 36V. This makes them fully suitable for use in the automotive sector, where voltage fluctuations can seriously damage ordinary consumer PCs.

Why choose industrial PCs?

As mentioned above, consumer PCs are devices designed for a completely different use from industrial computers.

Employing the PC on our desk inside an interactive kiosk exposed to weather conditions, or in a machine that must operate 24 hours a day would be like assuming/wanting to run a Moto GP championship on board a Graziella – and get surprised if we don’t even cross the finish line.

If you look back at the questions at the beginning of this article, you will already have the answer as to which PC is the best solution for your business.

To give you a brief overview, industrial computers are the best suited for installations in harsh environments, as they are fanless and can guarantee 24/7 operation even in humid dusty contexts or exposed to significant temperature fluctuations.

Finally, another important advantage of these PCs is that they can be tailor made to customer specifications: by turning to certified manufacturers, it is possible to design the custom PC with specific requirements, such as the presence of several serial ports, RAID to protect data, or RAM expansion if you need more memory.

In this way, you will not only be sure to have a secure, high-performance device, but also one that is perfectly suited to your company’s needs, avoiding ending up with an undersized PC that you will consequently need to replace, wasting more time and money.

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Read our customer testimonials

Kimera for 4.0 Automation Systems

My name is Marco Zana, and I am the Project Manager at Robot At Work. Our company operates in the industrial automation sector. We were looking for industrial PCs to integrate into our robot cells, suitable for HMI, 4.0 data exchange management, and 2D and 3D machine vision systems processing. The technical staff of Kimera Computers carefully analysed our needs and realised our PCs with the most suitable configurations for our application context, thereby fully meeting our expectations. We chose Kimera Computes because of their competence and professionalism. We had already worked with them to purchase industrial keyboards and after they visited our company, they got us a Kimera on trial for a fortnight. We could test the PC in our robot cells, and it was perfect for our needs. Finding reliable and efficient partners is essential in our sector, with high technological and qualitative standards. And Kimera Computers proved to be just that. In a few words, outstanding quality at a great price!

–          Marco Zana, Robot at Work

Kimera for Digital Kiosks

My name is Rosa Fanelli, and I work at BBS Italy, an indoor and outdoor digital kiosk manufacturer. We were looking for industrial devices to integrate into our products to solve malfunctioning issues. Indeed, using unsuitable hardware for 24/7 operation under adverse weather conditions caused severe computer damages, which, in turn, led to malfunctioning and failure of the entire kiosk. Therefore, we had to carry out frequent and very costly maintenance operations. After several searches we found Kimera Computers. They provided us with technical support throughout the entire process and they always offered the best solutions for our needs, providing us with fanless PCs suitable for 24/7 operations.

We turned to Kimera Computers because of their reliability and competence. They were also able to design and realize our industrial solutions more quickly than other suppliers: indeed, they delivered each of our orders within the guaranteed 5-day delivery time!

–          Rosa Fanelli, BBS

1U Fanless Server for ATEN European Demo & Training Centers

Hi, I’m the Technical and Sales Manager for Italy at ATEN, a Taiwanese company with 40 years of experience in the KVM and Professional Audio/Video sectors. I was looking for fanless servers in 1U format for the setting-up of the first Demo & Training Center in Milan. We didn’t have any particular performance requirements, and the usual commercial servers were just too big and noisy for us. Matteo’s good job with SEO allowed me to find KM Soltec and their fanless Kimera Computer Rack 1U. His helpfulness and professionalism were essential to get the 4 servers configured as we needed them. 6 months afterwards we were so satisfied with our purchase that we bought 4 more of them for the Demo & Training Center in Madrid. And soon it will be the turn of the one in Paris…

–          Luca Enea Spilimbergo, ATEN

Professionality and collaboration

We at Mager S.r.l. had long been looking for a reliable supplier of industrial computers or their fanless alternatives. As a manufacturing company, we were interested in substituting some onboard computers on CNC machines, looking for the right balance between economic investment, operational performance, robustness, and reliability. Matteo and his team provided a prompt response and maximum helpfulness at every stage, from analysing the problem to the technical and financial designing of the solution. The industrial PCs (KIMERA) we bought from KM Soltec have been operating for several months now, producing the expected performance in terms of energy-saving and reduction of machine downtime. Matteo and his team have shown great professionalism and care also in the management of the customer-supplier relationship.

–          Gian Luca Rivalta, Mager Srl.

Would you like to find out how Kimera Computers can increase your business productivity? Are you developing a project but don’t know which product is best suited for your needs? Contact our team:

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