Industry PC

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Industrial PC Siemens SIMATIC Box PC

An industrial PC ( IPC for short ) is a computer that is used for tasks in the industrial sector. In a narrower sense, it is about computers that are similar to an IBM-compatible personal computer and, in particular, can be operated with software for such devices.

Typical areas are process visualization , robotics , industrial automation , autonomous driving , test and test benches for industry or safety technology as well as quality assurance . An industrial PC must meet special requirements compared to the devices for the office area (office PC) and is usually particularly robust, e.g. B. designed against environmental influences or electromagnetic interference and largely fail-safe overall.

Conventionally designed PCs have many benefits as a result of being mass produced; For example: a high degree of standardization - both in terms of hardware and software -, flexibility, a wide range of peripheral components and application software , affordable prices. This gave rise to the desire to use these for automation as well. Due to its high flexibility, a PC can be used for operation, programming, visualization, long-term archiving and simulation of processes and can also be combined with conventional industrial controls or PLCs .


Hardware requirements

A general classification of the various requirements is given by the degree of protection .

An industrial PC is usually used in harsh environments, which is why, depending on the area of ​​application, it has to withstand strong temperature fluctuations and be resistant to dust and water.

Harsh environment

In an industrial environment, i.e. in production or even in the open air, the electronics must be protected against external influences such as dust, dirt, extreme temperatures, vibrations and moisture (protection class IP 64). This is achieved primarily through adapted, high-density housing and special filters in the cooling fans. In the same way, all plug connections must be designed to be robust and tight to the outside.

In the case of even stronger influences, the electronics may have to be hermetically encapsulated, so that for processor cooling, instead of fans with fresh air supply from the outside, one has to switch to closed systems with heat pipes and similar elements and, for example , outer walls designed as heat sinks with cooling fins of the housing (i.e. passive cooling ) .

If the environment produces strong electromagnetic interference (EMC), the system must be shielded against it. This also leads to specially electrically sealed housings and plug connectors, possibly with additional interference suppression elements in supply lines.

If the environment produces extreme mechanical shocks or vibrations, the housing and connectors must again be designed to be appropriately robust. In addition, it may be necessary to avoid moving mechanical components as much as possible, especially fans and hard drives . As above, the fans can be replaced by passive cooling systems; a hard drive recently with a solid state disk .

Keyboards are also quite sensitive mechanically. They are therefore often replaced by touchscreens , which also replace the mouse , whereby the application software only needs to be adapted slightly. See also at Panel PC .

Sensitive environment

Conversely, it can also happen that the environment itself is particularly sensitive to electromagnetic or mechanical interference, for example in special measuring equipment. Here, similarly to the above, particularly well-shielded housings and plug connections are used, here only with the aim of preventing interference from escaping to the outside.

If the environment is sensitive to mechanical shocks or vibrations, fanless and hard drive-less variants must be used as above.

In some areas (e.g. chemical industry) special regulations must also be observed (e.g. explosion protection ), which require special encapsulation of the IPC housing.

Power consumption

So that the environment is not disturbed by increased heat generation from the electronics, it may be necessary to ensure that the design is particularly power-saving. To do this, use is made of techniques such as those used in notebooks and laptops, so that power consumption can be reduced by around half.

Spatial narrowness

In some applications, all of the electronics must be housed in an extremely small space. For this purpose, there are, for example, complete PCs for top-hat rail mounting and housings that are otherwise used for embedded systems .


A computer used in industry is expected to have a particularly long service life without software or hardware failure. Correspondingly robust components are used on the hardware side, while specially optimized Linux distributions are often used for software .


Many IPC operators attach great importance to ease of maintenance and prefer systems with easy accessibility and the lowest possible number of wearing parts (e.g. fans). In current systems, hard drives can be exchanged within seconds. In addition, the supplier is selected according to whether he can guarantee long-term availability of the devices and spare parts. For IPC users who use large quantities - for example in an assembly line - with largely identical software, it is important to still get the same type of mainboard with the same chipset even after a few years , as a different chipset often creates a new memory image (Image ) due to different device drivers . As a result of the rapid change to increasingly powerful systems, the manufacturers of IPCs have to run a greater storage outlay for products that have already been discontinued than manufacturers of conventional PCs.

Software requirements

General information about the software

Common requirements are:

There are two versions when an industrial PC is used as an automation device:

  1. PC with automation part as hardware (e.g. PCI plug-in card) in the same housing, communication via a common bus. Meets real-time suitability in the strict sense.
  2. PC with automation part as software on industrial hardware. With real-time capability, certain compromises sometimes have to be accepted; a distinction is made between “soft real-time” and “hard real-time”.

Operating systems

Since the structure of the hardware is similar to that of commercially available personal computers, the common operating systems such as Microsoft Windows and Linux can be used. The big advantage is that you can fall back on a wide range of available software solutions and development tools. In the Linux area in particular, there is also the option of introducing your own modifications and optimizations , thanks to the open source character , which can also adapt the operating system level to the area of ​​application.


The hardware of an industrial PC usually differs from that of a conventional personal computer . Often a significantly lower performance is sufficient, since the control of industrial machines does not require high-performance processors. In the area of ​​process visualization, however, powerful processors and graphics solutions, especially multi-screen systems, are used.

Some companies produce IPCs with a modular structure. This means that the conventional main board ( mother board ) through a backplane ( backplane ), and a slot CPU is replaced. One advantage of this is that the IPC is available in several different variations. In particular, it is possible to use a larger number of expansion cards to control peripheral devices than on conventional main boards. Conventional motherboards have e.g. B. often only four to six PCI slots, with IPCs ten and more are possible via appropriate bridges, and plug-in cards for the ISA bus can also be supported if required .

All the components that can be found on a motherboard are on the slot CPU . Among other things, there is at least one processor socket and a slot for the main memory , connections for hard disks and other drives, usually a VGA chip and at least one network controller.

The bus board is an extension of the slot CPU. The buses are carried out on this. The maximum number is usually 20 slots and can be adapted to customer-specific requirements thanks to the variety of different backplanes. The most common buses for slot CPUs are PICMG 1.0 (PCI / ISA), PCISA or PCI-Express (PICMG 1.3).

The housing of an industrial PC is usually designed for installation in a 19-inch cabinet . There is also Box PC - compact and robust industrial PC for universal use (e.g. in the control cabinet , control panel, etc.) - and Panel PC - robust industrial PC with displays.

Mobile industrial computers are increasingly being used for mobile data acquisition in the field, in logistics, in service or in hospitality.

Due to the more complex construction, special requirements (e.g. extended temperature range), the higher quality materials, as well as the fulfillment of many approvals, guidelines and standards, the price of an industrial PC is higher than that of a normal personal computer in the office area.

Related areas

If the compatibility with personal computers does not play a decisive role, the hardware can be optimized even more specifically for the purpose. From the software side, too, you can still use Linux variants, for example , but these are then very much adapted to the task at hand.

In the vast majority of cases this boils down to solutions that are much more compact and smaller than a fully developed industrial PC; one then speaks of embedded PCs or embedded systems .


  • Berthold Bitzer: Process visualization with the industrial PC , Würzburg 1991, ISBN 3-8023-0486-1
  • Manfred Holder, Bernhard Plagemann, Gerhard Weber: The industrial PC in automation technology , Heidelberg 1999, ISBN 3-7785-2715-0

Individual evidence

  1. An industrial PC has to be able to do that. Retrieved November 12, 2019 .
  2. ICP iEi | MODAT-532 - Industrial PDA with barcode scanner | Industrial computers and components from IEI. Retrieved March 23, 2017 .

3. Design and properties of modern industrial PCs. Accessed on June 24th, 2020