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Modular IPCs mark ‘a new era in customised computing’

10 March, 2017

GE Automation & Controls has announced a range of modular industrial PCs (IPCs) which, it says, usher in “a new era of customised computing platforms”. The new PCs, which will make their debut at the Embedded World exhibition in Germany later this month, allow a higher level of customisation to suit users’ needs. According to GE, they mark the end of the era of maximising standardisation in IPCs.

“Our new, customised IPCs deliver on the promise of lower total cost of ownership,” says Rudolf Krumenacker, head of engineering and site leader at GE’s plant in Augsburg, Germany. “When compared to standardised products, they require less maintenance and have longer lifecycles.

“They allow for operating periods of 7 to 10 years, throughout which the computers can be deployed continuously, hardly requiring reconfiguration,” he adds. “Expenses for software modifications are lower, and there is less regression testing.”

The IPCs have been designed to advance the industrial Internet, and form the hardware foundation for GE’s Field Agent technology – which links machine controllers to data analytics in the cloud. They are also preconfigured for secure data transmission via secure networks.

One of the first of the new PCs is the RXi2-EP, which is optimised for heavy use in harsh industrial environments. It delivers mid-to-high performance computing capabilities to run, for example, data analytics applications at a machine, allowing improved control of operations in real time.

GE's modular industrial PCs allow a high degree of customisation to particular applications

The core of the RXi2-EP IPC architecture is GE’s COM Express modular CPU platform. This allows users to combine the IPC carrier flexibly with various COM Express modules to customise them for specific applications. The COM Express architecture separates the processor module and carrier card, allowing subsystem lives to be extended by a upgrading the processor simply and cost-effectively.

One of the new COM Express modules being launched at Embedded World is the bCOM6-L1800, based on Intel core processors. It has been designed for industrial control applications in rugged environments which need high reliability and protection against shock, vibration, moisture, dust, chemicals as well as heat. A “unique” cooling technology allows the processors to deliver full performance with no throttling over a temperature range of –20°C to +80°C.

GE Automation & Controls combines the former GE Intelligent Platforms and Alstom Power Automation & Controls operations. 

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