Home News&Events Blog How Are Rugged Computers Made? Part 2: Temperature Testing
How Are Rugged Computers Made? Part 2: Temperature Testing
We have learned the importance of shock and vibration testing procedures for industrial computers in Part 1 of our "How Are Rugged Computers Made?". We will now cover another equally essential and standard stress test for industrial computers: temperature testing for industrial PCs.
Like other environmental stress tests such as shock and vibration testing, temperature testing is a standard procedure for electronics, especially industrial-grade computers, to undergo to ensure their operative capability and viability in volatile and extreme environments.
Keep reading to understand the importance of temperature testing, the consequences of heat on the performance and longevity of electronics, the role of industrial hardware design to accommodate heat fluctuations, and the procedure for in-house temperature testing at C&T.
Industrial Computers Can Withstand High TemperaturesHeat is tricky to control when it comes to electronics, as they dissipate heat when fully functioning, all while continuously adjusting to the heat absorbed from the natural environment and trapped inside enclosures.
The amount of heat generated per electronic device varies according to the processing load and the type of processor found in each device. Then, the more demanding the data-processing tasks a computer carries out, the more heat it generates. The amount of data processed by industrial embedded systems continues to grow as more data processing is decentralized and moved away from the cloud, closer to the "edge".
When fully deployed, industrial computers are near other computers and sometimes within large enclosures, and these enclosures are placed in far, remote locations that do not have much protection from harsh weather conditions like solid sunlight, sandstorms, and rain. It isn't hard to imagine the temperatures these enclosures and the devices within them endure daily. On the other extreme, these remote locations can undergo significantly colder temperatures when the sun is gone, and these drastic changes in temperatures can do a number on the computer hardware as it tries to regulate its temperatures.
The ability of industrial computers to withstand high temperatures is part of the strength that defines the "ruggedness" of a computer. They are designed to withstand these harsh temperatures from the hardware design, which we will detail in the following sections.
Find out more about weather-resistant computers here
Defining Temperature RangesBefore proceeding, let us define the different temperature ranges commonly used for electronic devices: commercial, industrial, and extreme.
- Commercial: 0° to +60°C (+32° to 140°F)
- Wide/Extended: -20° to +70°C (-4° to 158°F)
- Industrial: -40° to +85°C (-40° to 185°F)
It is important to pay attention to the different temperature ranges that manufacturers define, as each may have their own different temperature range definition. Commercial temperatures are sufficient for devices that enjoy the same temperatures where humans live and work. However, embedded industrial systems are less fortunate. For this reason, they must survive Wide/Extended and Industrial temperature ranges.
At C&T, we define our temperature range as "Wide," where our devices are tested for between -25°C and 70°C. The Wide temperature range can enhance the reliability of embedded devices running in cold and warm climates. For example, situations where devices may experience temperatures listed above, may include locations in higher altitudes (in mountainous areas like the Alps), and warmer climates may be located in desert areas with little to no shade from sunlight.
How Do High Temperatures Affect PC Performance?Where commercial computers occasionally run demanding tasks and experience spikes in temperature ranges, they have time to cool down again. However, industrial computers always carry out high-performance tasks, leading to continuous heat build-up and limited opportunity to cool down.
Older CPUs would fail if they started to overheat. However, modern CPUs operate at clock speeds dependent on the task at hand and the device's temperature. Modern CPUs adjust their frequency to prevent failure from overheating and therefore undergo a dynamic heating scaling to reduce the power draw from the processors as required, reducing the computer's performance power. A computer would run operations until it reaches its thermal limit. These limits can vary for each processor depending on the make and model. For example, Intel's Turbo Boost processor has a limit of 100°C, which means it should exhibit full performance until it reaches 100°C.
Regarding PC hardware, high temperatures can make it more likely to have minor or significant computer faults, such as reduced performance, data corruption, or complete system failure, which is detrimental to critical business applications.
Fanless Cooling Methods for Industrial ComputersTo avoid the adverse effects of overheating and reduced performance power, computers must have a dedicated cooling system. Unfortunately, due to the high temperatures endured by industrial computers, cooling fans are insufficient, as they require a lot of power, are noisy, and are prone to failure. They are also a pathway for introducing dust and other foreign particles into the computer system, potentially causing system failures or reducing performance efficiency in the long run.
For this reason, fanless cooling systems are used to dissipate heat as it is generated passively. Fanless cooling systems provide a lasting cooling effect for the computer. Although the design of fanless cooling systems is effective, computers must still be put to the test as they are expected to perform for long periods in harsh industrial settings where failure is not an option.
Find out how to build a Fanless PC here
Extreme Temperature Tests for Industrial ComputersIndustrial computers are tested to see if they can withstand extreme temperatures. Typically, these tests are conducted for hours, often up to 48 hours (about two days) or more, to simulate an environment where the industrial computer continuously computes high workloads. In addition to testing the system's resistance to high and low temperatures, the system's cooling capacity and ability to maintain high performance throughout are also tested.
Industrial embedded systems need to undergo temperature stress tests as industrial settings are not always optimal, despite the recommended operating temperature of components stated by manufacturers. By subjecting embedded systems to extreme situations, manufacturers can guarantee reliability and enhance the product lifecycle by maintaining the efficiency of functions and preventing predictable failures.
In-House Temperature Testing Procedure
At C&T, we follow rigorous quality testing procedures, including temperature testing, to certify that our embedded systems are perfect for your industrial needs. Among the machines that we use to test our devices are the climatic chamber to test for temperature and humidity and the thermal shock chamber.
Temperature humidity chambers (also known as climatic test chambers) simulate the effects of a range of temperature and humidity conditions on a product. We place our embedded rugged systems into these chambers and test them for temperature ranges between -20°C and 70°C. Pictured below is one of our climatic chambers for temperature stress testing.
Climatic Chamber for Temperature and Humidity Testing
BurnIN software is used after a specific run-time to measure a computer's performance while in the machine. During this time, we also measure connectivity features and if all inputs and outputs can maintain their functions throughout the temperature fluctuations. To thoroughly test the computer's functionality, the system is switched on and off 1000 times during the temperature test.
At C&T, we also have a thermal shock chamber, which can be programmed to have drastic temperature changes in the environment surrounding a computer. It is an additional stress test to push a device to its operating limits in an industrial setting.
C&T Makes Rugged, Quality Assured, Vibration-Proof Industrial Computers
C&T Solutions Inc. have our very own in-house environmental testing lab where we conduct in-house temperature and humidity testing for rugged computers to ensure that they are reliable and functional across all industrial-grade terrain. Our industrial computers comply with certifications such as MIL-STD-810H, and MIL-STD-810H 501.7, 502.7, 503.7 for high temperature, low temperature and temperature shock. By conducting these tests in-house, we can guarantee that our products remain competitive in any industrial application you may have in mind.
If you have any questions regarding C&T's in-house testing lab procedures, don't hesitate to contact one of our representatives here.