OP/Station products can be custom-configured, custom-designed, and custom-built to suit the needs of your factory floor, laboratory, or warehouse.

Cooling Concerns

Over the past several years, there has been a rising trend to put standard “commercial grade” PCs on the plant floor. Typically, to protect these computers from the environment, they are placed in an industrial workstation (like an OP/Station).

With applications ranging from process control (HMI) to weighing rooms to clean rooms the need to cool these workstations must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

The questions are:

  • Do I need to cool the workstation? And, if yes:
  • What should I use to cool it?

Does my workstation need cooling?

To answer this question we need to know some basic pieces of information:

  • What is the maximum ambient temperature in the room?
  • How much heat will the equipment in the workstation generate (typically measured in Watts)?
  • How much available surface area does the enclosure have to dissipate heat?
  • What is the lowest maximum safe operating temperature of all the pieces of equipment in the workstation?

From this information, the expected Temperature Rise in the workstation can be calculated. If the Ambient Temperature plus the Temperature Rise exceeds the safe operating temperature – then cooling is needed.

What are my options for cooling?

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Transfers heat from inside the enclosure to the outside air using heat pipes and fans

Cannot cool below ambient temperature

Available in NEMA 12/4 and 4X designs

Available in both traditional freon-based models and solid-state designs

Typically thermostatically controlled

Can cool below ambient temperature

Available in NEMA 12/4 and 4X designs

Uses compressed air and vortex tube technology

Typically thermostatically controlled

Can cool below ambient temperature

Lower maintenance (no coolant involved)

Best solution for classified areas. May also be a good choice for NEMA 12/4/4X applications

We have many options available for keeping an OP/Station cool and we can work with you to determine what is best for your application.



How do they work?

All touchscreens, regardless of the “technology”, operate on the same principle as a mouse. They’re nothing more than a pointing device in which the cursor is controlled by the operator’s finger or some other form of stylus. The cursor will then appear where the operator places his or her finger and can be dragged around the screen the same as a mouse would do. The touchscreen is self-calibrating to a given monitor size such that the initial set up takes less than five minutes. The operation is the same as with a mouse: click and drag, double clicks, etc. Via the set-up, it can be designed to “activate” upon touch or release of touch. All touchscreens are supplied with the necessary software drivers and interface cabling to work with most computer systems. The “interface” to the computer is via an available serial port.

A common misconception is that by adopting a touchscreen interface, you “give up” the mouse. This is not true. A touchscreen and a mouse / joystick / trackball can be connected to the same computer. Both can be used, just not at the exact same moment.

Which technology is best?

Once the decision to use a touchscreen has been made the next decision is which touchscreen technology is best. This can easily be determined by looking at the application, where the touchscreen will be used and the environment it will be operating in. There are four basic touchscreen technologies that are generally used: Resistive, Infrared, Capacitive and Surface Acoustic Wave (SAW). They all have their pros and cons as outlined below. Capacitive for example cannot be used with gloves but can be washed down whereas Infrared can be used with gloves but has some limitations in wet environments.

Some newer technologies that hold promise are NFI (Near Field Imaging) and ThruGlass Capacitive. These are basically improved capacitive touchscreens with safety glass overlays that can be used with “gloved” hands. They provide a more robust interface for applications that involve more severe use.



Types of Purging

For computer based systems to be used in a hazardous environment, purging technology is the most logical. Within this technology there are basically two levels of protection and purging systems available based on the environment. The ”least critical“ is a Class I, Division 2 area in which explosive gases are present only during an abnormal circumstance (i.e. an accidental release of a gas by-product). For this situation a Type Z purge system is utilized which provides for a continuous air flow and pressurization of the enclosure and has a pressure switch with alarm contact to alert the operator and/or control system that pressure has been lost for whatever reason. The operator can then take the necessary steps to shut down the power to the system if a hazardous situation occurs.

The second level of protection is for “critical” applications, Class I, Division 1, in which the explosive or hazardous gases are present during normal operation. For this situation a Type X purge system is utilized which just like the Z purge above, provides a continuous air pressure into the cabinet but also performs one other important function. Basically, the X purge system will control the overall power within the enclosure such that, due to the loss of pressure within the enclosure, for whatever reason, the EPCU (Electronic Power Control Unit) within the X purge system will shut down all power to the system. It will also prevent the power-up of the system until all explosive gases that might have built up within the enclosure during shut down have been effectively flushed out. For a typical PC enclosure this would involve a 10 minute “Rapid Exchange Purge” in which (4) volumes of air are passed through the enclosure before power is allowed to be re-energized.

The basic difference between the Type Z (Div 2) and the Type X (Div 1) is that with Type Z the power is controlled manually, while the Type X power is automatically controlled by the system itself. The codes for the proper configuration and operation of these purge systems are governed by NFPA, Section 496.

OP/Station’s Offering

A Purge Workstation from OP/Station contains all of the above safety features outlined and will accept the computer/monitor of your choice. Workstations are shipped fully assembled with an integrated purge system whereby the customer only needs to connect up power and air via the connection points provided. All OP/Station’s Purge Workstations are shipped standard with an integrated membrane or elastomer NEMA 4/4X keyboard with Optical Isolators in line with the keyboard. This basically adds another level of protection to prevent any sparks from occurring if the keyboard surface is scratched or punctured for whatever reason. Additionally, with the Type X system, all power is hardwired from the purge control system through a (4) outlet surge suppressor within the enclosure. Therefore, the customer need only attach his power plugs from his computer and monitor into the surge suppressor within the unit.


Hardware Integration

OP/Station specializes in working with OEMs who typically provide HMI workstations as a part of their solution. The goal of our Hardware Integration Program (HIP) is to let OP/Station remove the design, procurement, assembly and test burden of the workstation from you - so that you can focus on your area of specialization.

What we can offer

A typical engagement with one of our OEM customers may include any or all of the following:

  • Workstation Components: LCD, Keyboard, Pointing Devices, Touchscreens, etc.
  • Peripherals: Barcode Scanners, UPS, Cooling Systems, I/O, KVM, etc.
  • Computer Components: Processors, RAID Arrays, Thin Clients, etc.
  • Form Factor: Pedestal, Wall Mount, Swingarm, etc.
  • Component Selection, Sourcing and Procurement
  • Load operating system/application software
  • Component Tracking/Revision Control
  • System Assembly & Configuration
  • Materials, Stainless, Painted Steel
  • Customized/Special testing
  • System Burn-in & Test
  • Custom Components
  • Workstation Design
  • Ratings, NEMA, UL
  • Test Procedures
  • Documentation
  • Network Setup
  • Drawings
  • Assembly
  • Testing

How it works

Our process begins with some discussions, meetings or correspondance with you to begin to define your application requirements. After we do some research and design work, we develop and present solution alternatives for your review. Once a final design is agreed upon, we develop the Bill of Materials, assembly and test procedures, and other elements, as needed.

Give us a call, and we will walk you through our process in more detail.

Why HIP?

The Hardware Integration Program is a great value-add from OP/Station. It is all about “Competency Focus.” You can concentrate on your expertise – whether it is an assembly machine, a CIP skid, a pan coater, a packaging machine or a mixer. We focus on our expertise – the hardware design, assembly and testing. We reduce our customers’ overall costs and risk!


Hazardous Area Classifications

The migration of personal computers onto the plant floor is continuing at a record pace. The price/performance of a standard PC when coupled with new plant floor software packages and networking capabilities have moved PC's onto the plant floor for functions such as supervisory control and data acquisition. However, manufacturing plants and process areas are traditionally not the cleanest nor the most environmentally controlled environments for PC's to operate in. As a result, NEMA rated workstations with built-in cooling are available for protection of the computer system from the environment.

There is another level of protection: however, that needs to be considered when computer systems go into what is classified as a hazardous (explosive) environment. Basically, this involves not only protecting the computer system from the environment but protecting the environment from the computer system.

Defining Hazardous

A “hazardous environment” is typically classified as one that contains amounts of explosive gases or dust either during normal operations or during an abnormal circumstance. These areas are typically found in petrochem, chemical, pharmaceutical and painting industries where by-products of the process or the end product itself is considered hazardous. The word hazardous is further defined by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) under a Class, Division, Group rating system which helps define the severity of the hazardous environment.

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Defines the form of hazardous substance present

Class I – Area where ignitable concentrations of flammable gases or liquid vapors are present.
Class II – Area where ignitable concentrations of combustible dusts are present.

Defines the level of hazardous substance concentration

Division 1 – Hazardous substances are present during normal operation
Division 2 – Hazardous substances are present only during abnormal conditions (such as a leak)

Defines the type of hazardous substance

Class I Substances
Group A – Acetylene (Most Volatile)
Group B – Hydrogen
Group C – Ethylene
Group D – Methane

Class II Substances
Group E – Conductive (Metal)
Dust (Automatically classified as Division 1)

Types of Protection

As these industries look to move their PC’s into hazardous environments there are currently three forms of protection available, that are recognized by the NFPA, for the placement of electronic equipment in a hazardous environment. The overall intent is to prevent/contain an explosion that might be caused by an electrical malfunction of the computer system. Towards this point the (3) types of protection are:

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This is a means of limiting the amount of energy that a particular piece of electrical apparatus generates or stores. These voltage levels are typically in the 5 to 24 Volt range and are associated with annunciators, instrumentation and other “light load” electrical equipment. Typically, computer systems do not fall into this category.

These enclosures are designed to contain an explosion as opposed to preventing one. They’re constructed of heavy cast iron material and have limited openings; therefore, limited access. Heavy duty electrical apparatus that requires minimal interface are many times housed in these enclosures which tend to be somewhat bulky and cost prohibitive. Relative to the use of PC’s, they are typically not appropriate since there is virtually no operator interface allowed with these enclosures; thereby defeating the purpose of putting a PC into the environment.

The third form of recognized protection by the NFPA is purging. This concept basically means that a NEMA 4/4X rated enclosure will be pressurized with an inert (non-explosive) gas such that the internal pressure of the enclosure is greater than the external pressure of the environment. This basically means that there will always be a continuous clean air flow out of the enclosure thereby preventing the intrusion of explosive gases or dusts into the enclosure. These “Purge Workstations” contain a pressure switch with a tie back to the purging system to alert and potentially shut down the system if the internal pressure is lost for any reason. This approach is one of the most cost-effective ways of placing a PC into a hazardous environment. It provides the normal operator interfaces that are required including: viewing of the monitor screen and use of a specially designed keyboard/pointing device for the environment.

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