What features are important to rugged panel PC HMI?


Thread Starter


What specifications do you need in a rugged panel PC HMI?

IP65 rated connectors?
wider operating temperatures?
hard drives?
wash down protection?
high bright LCD's?

I'm looking to develop a new product for the field and would like know what you are looking for.

feel free to email [email protected]

William Sturm

1.  Fanless - very high priority.  Most PC's last as long as the $2.00 fan.

2.  Wide operating temperature & also low heat generation.  Must fit into a small box without overheating.  Have you ever seen a P4 in a 16x16x8" box?

Bill Sturm
Abbeytronics LLC
Thanks Bill.

we have some initial designs with the Intel Atom processor that are fanless with -20c ~ +70c operating temperature which is limited by the LCD/touchscreen components. These are really rugged in design but might not be general enough for the field, those applications usually need some customization.

how important would you rate expansion slots and a hard drive?
No Hard drive to crash
Historical data stored in csv format on removable non proprietory media e.g. memory stick.
Extra bright option for outdoors
NEMA 4 front of course
Touchscreen and or keypad options

William Sturm

I have needed both zero or one PCI slots in the past.  I suspect that industry needs vary widely, but I think the trend is away from backplane cards.

If you offer a hard disk, use a 2.5" for durability.  I would suggest embedded XP with no rotating media as an option.  Use some sort of flash disk, maybe CF?

Bill Sturm

Abbeytronics LLC
DB9 for serial, screw terminal for RS-485, RJ-45 for ethernet. RJ-45 for anything other than ethernet labeled really clearly.

Although that sounds like 'who'd do it different?" I've run into panels that use the 15 pin D connector used for video output on PCs. That's real common . . . . And RS-232 in an RJ-45 where the voltages blew out the ethernet port on the other end.

USB port on the back side for data fetch with a USB stick. Upload/download config via USB stick.


Herman Chrisstoffer

In my experience the so called ruggedized pc's often have problems direclty out of the box. In my view this is because they are build in small series. If you compare this with a standard desktop pc's or laptop's which are build in large quantities. They all run out of the box. So I you intend to develop a ruggedized pc the quality out of the box is important.


Gerald Beaudoin

We always needed two Network Interface Cards. One to communicate with the PLC network, and the other to allow information transfer to and from the admin network. Like to keep those two very separate.
As already mentioned, heat dissipation is right up there on the list as an issue.
Easy on/off mounting fixtures are a big help if things do go west on you.
Easy field replacement of the touchscreen and 1 day delivery of replacement parts were all reeeeal nice to have.

Gerald Beaudoin
Is the CPU and graphics chip in a fanless system going to be fast enough to run MS Windows Vista or MS Win 7? Fanless systems normally use slower CPUs (Intel Atom, VIA) and low end integrated graphics to minimise heat output.

I tried the MS Windows 7 beta on some fanless hardware (not yours), and it was so slow as to be unusable in any practical graphical application. It seems to need some really serious hardware to get acceptable performance. I tested MS Windows Vista on the same hardware and it didn't seem as slow (although it wasn't great either), but that was a while ago and I wasn't doing scientific benchmarks.

Apart from the above, if you are looking for features to offer, then solid state hard drives should definitely be on the options list (or even the default). You can get 8 GB SATA and PATA SSDs for a fairly reasonable price now. You won't fit MS Vista (or Win 7) on that, but the price of the larger sizes will soon be coming down to reasonable levels as well.

William Sturm

I used to use a panel PC with a Via Eden 533 MHz processor and 256MB RAM with Windows XP and my own program written in C#.  It ran about as fast as any other PC.  A large general purpose SCADA package may be a different matter, I suppose.

The low end processors should be for XP embedded or Linux and a custom software application.  Maybe you could use a laptop CPU with a heat pipe or large heat sink to run a more typical Windows OS and shrink wrapped software?

Bill Sturm
Abbeytronics LLC
I would say, <b>No</b> (I)PC! Lots of people here seems to have problems with the difference between HMI and IPC.

Look to the ESA HMI's.

in your case I wouldn't suggest a panel PC as you can't replace the touch screen if their is a failure, you have to raplace the whole unit... but I would suggest a NEMA enclosed workstation, we make them in multiple configurations and can incorporate heating, cooling, any configuration of computer, the touch panel in in a hinged door that can be keylocked and interchange of components is very simple.

take a look on our website www.ccs-inc.com
or email me [email protected]

I can send you some pictures..

The Intel Atom processor is more suited towards MS windows embedded and for industrial applications I would always suggest that an embedded image be used... along with whatever other software is needed. One of the motherboards we use has up to 8gig availalbe.. other motherboards and processors can be used if the OS needs to be more robust.
I looked at the ESA products and they have a very wide offering.. I'm not sure what you are referring to in the difference between HMI & IPC? We are looking for feedback on using a Panel PC as an HMI interface with PLC's and SCADA systems.. ESA PPC's are all 0 - 50c with fans , our design is fanless and -20c ~ +70c ... are their features about the ESA products you see as important?