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Fanless CompactPCI system runs cool

Posted: 22 Dec 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Hercules? Inova Computers? industrial computer?

small-format industrial computer

Dubbed the Hercules, Inova Computers' latest small-format industrial computer keeps operating temperatures low enough to survive comfortably without fans or forced-air cooling.

In use, operating temperature extends from -20C to 50C, but you can optionally order systems extending from -40C to 85C. Hercules boxes also exceed the shock and vibration requirements of the EN 50155 standard.

Overall system integrity
Originally designed for transportation applications, this rugged 7-slot 3U-sized cPCI (CompactPCI) system maintains system integrity in both hardware and software to prevent failures. All boards and interface connections are also accessible from the front of the computer.

Made of aluminum, the heatsink conducts heat away from the processors to the chassis walls, where it's dissipated through a set of cooling fins. This thermal management prevents hot spots inside the chassis, extending MTBF (mean time between failures).

Windows software
Running Windows XP Embedded, the Hercules's CPU board is fitted with either an Intel 1GHz ULV (Ultra-Low Voltage) Celeron M, or a 1.4GHz Pentium M.

To prevent corruption of core software, Windows XP Embedded's system and drivers are loaded into a write-protected area in flash when the Hercules boots. About 75MB of flash remain, providing headroom for storing application code. The system is therefore safe from viruses, eliminating the need for a firewall.

The CPU boards contain a Phoenix BIOS and a SiS (Silicon Integrated Systems) chipset, along with 256MB of CF (Compact Flash) memory that can be upgraded.

I/O includes a USB 2.0 port, a Fast Ethernet or Gigabit Ethernet port, an analog video accelerator for screens with up to a 2,048 x 1,536-pixel formats, and three 24V opto-isolated digital I/O lines. The system also uses an intelligent power supply board providing 3.3V at 4A, 5.1V at 6A, and 12V at 250mA.

Five slots
Five backplane slots let you plug in cPCI I/O and controller boards for functions such as digital video, global positioning, WLAN (wireless local area networking), or removable hard disk drives.

The power supply board contains a dedicated microcontroller that functions as a system watchdog manager, using five watchdogs to monitor voltage, temperature, and other parameters. If the system contains an optional hard drive, the controller also keeps an eye on the health of that device.

A BSP (Board Support Package) is also provided with the Hercules. It has utilities to monitor the operating parameters of the system. The BSP can be tuned to meet individual requirements.

These systems are also screened against electro-magnetic interference (EMI), and they're immune to external EMI.

Pricing begins at about $1,700.

- Alex Mendelsohn

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