Phoenix Contact’s Valueline 3: Newest Panel and Box IPC

August 09, 2023 by Shawn Dietrich

Phoenix Contact adds to its product family of panel PCs and IPCs with the Valueline 3, available in a standalone box or ready to integrate into a robust touch panel for industrial environments.

Usually called by its familiar acronym of IPC, an Industrial PC is similar to a standard computer that you might find in an office or at home. The primary differences lie in the chassis, and I/O options. Designed to work without fans, IPCs are built with components that are supported by the manufacturer for a long time, in some cases up to 15 years. Additionally, IPCs include many features that target familiar IT/OT environments, such as multiple network ports or connectors for I/O and serial communications.


Phoenix Contact’s new Valueline 3 IPC.

Phoenix Contact’s new Valueline 3 IPC. Image used courtesy of Phoenix Contact


Panel PCs vs. Box PCs

A panel PC is a monitor with an embedded PC placed inside. In many industrial applications, this monitor has touch capabilities. The box PC, which is a more familiar form factor of IPC, contains the working components of a computer tower, with the ability to connect various devices, but in a ruggedized, hardened outer casing. 

IPCs and panel PCs are in the process of becoming more popular for machine builders and equipment designers because of their low cost, reduced space and footprint, high-quality components, and the ability to include lots of inputs and output options. Recently, Phoenix Contact has released a new IPC that is configurable as a panel PC or a box PC and makes use of Intel’s 11th-gen processors.


Valueline 3 IPC System

The Valueline 3 is fully configurable and comes in two variations: a panel PC with a multi-touch wide screen of 15.5 inches to 21.5 inches, or a stand-alone box PC. Both versions offer the same flexible hardware configuration options. The VL3 uses Intel’s 11th gen core processors, and DDR4 ram to offer respectable processing power. Both versions offer DiplayPort++ which can support 4K resolution. The VL3 also supports RAID 1 configurations (meaning ‘redundant array of independent disks’) which provides a more reliable backup for important data. 


Communication, power, and display ports on the VL3 box IPC.

Communication, power, and display ports on the VL3 box IPC. Image used courtesy of Phoenix Contact


For connectivity, the VL3 has internal WiFi with multiple antenna connectors and up to 4 serial ports along with two Gigabit ethernet ports. For more simple, local I/O applications, there is plenty of support for digital dry contact inputs and outputs. 

The panel PC version has a glove-operable screen and works well in humid and wet environments. The panel PC is based on similar product lines already offered by Phoenix Contact. Both versions run on standard 24VDC, the box PC has four USB 3.1 ports, two display ports, a power switch, and a connector for a remote hard-wired power switch. Both units are UL class I approved, making them acceptable to be installed in both Canada and the US. 


Vision Systems And Data Collection

There are many applications where an IPC can be used in automation, with more appearing all the time. Vision systems are known for leveraging the traits of IPCs because of the intensive computing requirements of vision applications and the high-speed networking requirements. 

IPCs can also be used as data collection devices similar to a DAQ system (data acquisition and control). It is even possible to host private intranet web servers from IPCs to view or manipulate data and devices on the machine level. Many equipment builders that specialize in small automated components are switching to IPCs for the ability to create PC applications that can automate tasks in the physical world. Because the IPC contains a supported operating system, security applications can be constructed and updated to ensure the privacy and reliability of internal data.


Phoenix Contact’s panel and box form factor IPCs.

Phoenix Contact’s panel and box form factor IPCs. Image used courtesy of Phoenix Contact


Panel PCs And HMIs

Before panel PCs, HMIs were small, standalone monitors with a small processor inside that could, at most, run an embedded version of Windows. Panel PCs are slowly taking over for standard HMIs in some cases, a trend that is likely to continue. A panel PC can cost much less than an HMI from a large automation supplier and can run nearly any HMI application runtime. 

By using a panel PC, one gets larger screen sizes, and better computing power at a lower cost. These advantages are driving down the demand for HMIs and driving up the demand for panel PCs.