Why Cable-Free Design?
In order to meet cableless requirement, the motherboard also has expansion connector that supports multiple signals like PCIe, USB, Serial, GPIO, and others. This will allow additional I/O expansion board to be connected and secured inside the chassis. The expansion board can sit on top or below the motherboard. Some design will place the motherboard and expansion board side by side to minimize the overall height. The end result is a fanless PC without internal cables to support operating conditions with high shock and vibration.
Why Fanless Design?
Industrial applications typically require 24/7, nonstop operation and often operate in unfriendly environments with issues such as extremely hot or cold temperatures, shock and vibration, dust, and moisture. If the hardware fails, not only will service costs be incurred to fix it, but also will loss of revenue be suffered because of equipment down time. Reliable hardware is critical to ensure systems can stay operational and without failure over long periods of time.
If not carefully chosen and maintained, cooling fans are a high failure component of a typical PC, next to a rotational HDD. Modern ball bearing type of cooling fan can usually last a long time. But a filter is usually added to the air intake to prevent dust from coming into the chassis. The filter can prevent dust from blocking the fan vent and accumulation on the fan blades. Cleaning the filter—an important maintenance requirement—can incur a lot of service costs because industrial environments usually have more dust and debris than a typical office environment.
Why Modular I/O Expansion Design?
One potential issue associated with fanless PC is its expansion options. The chassis for a fanless is usually very compact and does not have much room for other circuit boards. In order to address this shortcoming, C&T are being innovative and provide pre-configured I/O expansion options.
The advantage is that these configurations are also pre-validated to make sure the added components would not violate its target performance, again saving system validation time and cost. Some vendors also make these expansions available via a cableless design. The result is a fanless and cableless PC that can withstand higher shock and vibration during operation. These I/O expansions are modular design to allow easy mix and match for different application use. For example, there can be USB, serial ports via one expansion card and Ehternet ports on another card.
With modules, vendors can also maintain common, pre-validated components and reuse them among different customers and applications. With the same modules being used by multiple customers, customers will not face end-of-life issues as often. This helps prolong the supply of the components and reduce the sustaining costs.