5 Tips for Choosing Tablet Computers for Industrial Environments

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  5 Tips for Selecting Tablet Computers for Industrial Environments

By Christopher Ealahan, Senior Sales Manager, Teguar Computers

Smartphones and tablets are finding their way into the factory and are given the task of data entry. Device monitoring and system control. As a result, many manufacturers of factory automation software have developed Android applications for monitoring and controlling industrial automation equipment. Moving to IoT enabled devices has also contributed to the overhead of remote device control and monitoring.

However, the factory floor can be a relentless place for equipment, especially when it comes to electronics. Very few of these devices make the system intact or have a long life.

However, the demand for increased vertical integration and machine reliability means that production and maintenance systems are hungry for data. In most cases, the best way to meet this need is to use real-time input from portable computing devices. Pen and paper tracking simply can not meet the demands of today's industrial environment.

In fact, many operations use dozens of computers. Therefore, maximizing the lifetime of these devices has an impact on cost and continuity.

Meanwhile, many users of industrial automation applications are seeing the benefits of Android-based PCs. Android PCs are a cheaper alternative to traditional Windows PCs for several reasons. Android computers typically include ARM processors that are less expensive than Intel processors.

In addition, Android industrial computers are not subject to the licensing fees for the operating system that are required for Windows-based computers. Android industrial computers do not require the extra storage and memory requirements that Windows-based computers require. The cost savings associated with these differences are driving industrial automation toward Android-based computing.

The evolution of Android computing is accompanied by an army of Android software developers who benefit from a simplified software development environment. Android developers can easily adapt applications to unique I / O devices and create GUIs for managing industrial applications.

The mobility and device-independent aspects of this software are the foundation for many new implementations of the industrial automation infrastructure. In addition, these devices enable connection to ERP and WMS systems as well as diagnostic and preventative maintenance programs.

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While the benefits of monitoring and control with Android devices seem obvious, until recently this was not feasible in a factory environment. A trip to Best Buy or Order from Amazon does not recruiting the computer tablet that requires these tasks. Consumer Android tablets are not suitable for industrial environments because they lack the typically required ruggedness and environmental rating.

These tasks must be done by rugged tablet PCs. Finding the kind of computer hardware that can survive the factory floor and the yard while providing capabilities beyond consumer appliances brings some key considerations. Here are five factors that every industrial user should look for when searching for the right tablet computer:

1. Ability to handle any industrial environment

Computer tablets used in the factory floor are integrated into production lines and machine arms, which are used as HMIs and mounted on forklift cages and cars, as well as on workstations. In most cases, these devices are used in dirty, dusty work environments and in extreme temperature areas.

There is no room for computers and tablets for end users. According to an engineer with a supply chain operation, they constantly had to swap computers. "They fell like flies," he recalls. These environments require rugged PCs.

Many operations use rugged tablet PCs that operate both indoors and outdoors. For example, if an employee uses the tablet PC in a warm vehicle and then goes into the freezing point on the field, it may cause condensation. This moisture can damage consumer products, especially if this use is routine. Industrial devices, however, have internal components that are not affected by these temperature variations since they are designed with this capability.

In order to withstand these conditions, the computer tablet requires a high IP rating, which indicates that the device is effectively sealed against the ingress of foreign bodies and moisture, either in the front panel or the entire enclosure.

For some of these industrial computer tablets, there is a fanless heat sink design in extreme temperatures. These units protect their internal components from the ingress of particles while dissipating heat. They are able to handle large temperature ranges and can be used in the yard or next to heat generating machines.

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2. Designed to work with a variety of operating systems

The good news is that a manufacturing facility has a set of systems to choose from for administrative and maintenance functions. The bad news is typical computer equipment that may not be able to interact with it.

Over time, the type of computer tablet you are using now does not dictate future system updates. However, successful management means you get the best possible lifespan on your devices, and you can handle the range of operating systems.

These include Windows Embedded, Windows Professional, Windows RT, and any other system that is being developed. They also want to be ready for Linux and POS systems, along with the latest I / O interfaces and ports capable of handling higher speeds.

3. Touchscreen Design

The two factors that are crucial for a tablet PC in the factory are readability and responsiveness. The lighting in factory buildings can range from weak to extremely bright.

Consider units that feature high-resolution, sunlight-readable LCD-lit screens, TFT screens, CCFL backlights, high brightness and wide viewing angles. Readability is crucial because information must be viewed quickly from the screen and misunderstandings can lead to serious consequences.

The demands of industrial applications require screens with lifetimes of 100 million touches. Many industrial operations, especially maintenance, electrical wiring or car washes, require protected hands and the screens can respond to contact with gloves.

4. Portability

This criterion not only implies the ability to be plugged in but also the ability to withstand the rough handling of an industrial environment. In the factory floor, this treatment includes the occasional garbage that can disable a consumer computer. A crash-proof tablet PC can withstand a four-foot fall on a plywood floor.

There are operations where forklifts use on-board computers attached to the cage to receive instructions from the material handling system. The rugged tablet PCs withstand the vibrations in this environment with high freedom of movement.

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5. Environments from damp to moist

For the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industries, the right temperature is everything. For safety reasons, these products must be properly stored and, during processing, the articles often need to be heated or cooled to an extremely high level. In a refrigerated environment, when equipment is washed with hot water, it can generate steam and condensation. For home computers, these conditions are fatal.

Waterproof Tablet PCs, on the other hand, are designed for these conditions. You can work in environments with much wider temperature ranges and high humidity.

In a processing plant, a sturdy industrial tablet could survive the cold / cold temperatures of a refrigerator or freezer and back to a warmed warehouse several times a day. These devices are ideal for use in this industry and can operate efficiently without adverse reactions to rapid temperature changes.

Industrial trays are tools for production

Information is the key to a productive industrial and manufacturing operation and the means of avoiding costly mistakes. The information provided by the rugged tablet PCs, which people in these facilities see thousands of times every day, is the window to power their systems and devices.

Downtime is deadly. Since reliability is a must, companies that make portable tablets rigorously test their devices to make sure they can handle the extremes.

Because no manufacturing or processing environment is created, make sure your supplier provides you with a device that meets the needs of your business and can achieve your goals of monitoring and controlling system functions. The right computer will provide the facility for years rather than months.

About the Author

Christopher Ealahan is Senior Sales Executive at Teguar Computers. Chris loves everything, including computers and nature. He frequently works with Fortune 500 companies to provide and support the best computing solutions in their manufacturing facilities. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Teguar provides custom rugged tablets and fully enclosed, fanless, waterproof and medical touch computing solutions for extreme environments such as clean rooms, outdoor applications in all weather conditions, rigs and manufacturing floors. Teguar Corporation is a registered ISO 9001: 2008 company.

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