Industrial PC (IPC)

Industrial PC: function, repair, replacement

An industrial PC (IPC) is a computer for control, monitoring or display functions that is used to operate machines and systems. Computers from different manufacturers are used, including providers such as Siemens, Beckhoff, B&R, ASEM, but also various smaller manufacturers.
One of the most important characteristics of IPCs compared to conventional computers is that they must be able to run for long periods under adverse conditions. Above all, they must be tolerant of high and low temperatures, dust and liquids, as they operate in production halls where changing climatic conditions and dust are commonplace. Since industrial PCs control production machines and production systems and therefore complex systems, not only long service lives are a basic requirement, they also have to function reliably without disruptions or even failures.

Which operating systems are used for IPCs?

Microsoft products are usually used as operating systems. These are often systems that have proven themselves over the years, but are therefore not the latest. These include the following operating systems: MS-DOS, Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 10. Manufacturers rarely use operating systems such as Linux, OS/2 or eComStation. As retrofit GmbH, we are familiar with all of these systems from the ground up.

Repair of IPCs

Procedure and components that fail particularly frequently

In order to correctly assess an IPC failure, we first precisely determine the specific cause of the damage. Defects in components of industrial PCs have very different causes, but also very different effects. The most common defects occur in the power supply or the built-in power supplies; other common defects are hard drive failures and defective mainboards or motherboards. Defects in RAM and RAM modules are just as common. However, the built-in CPU fails far more rarely.

IPC failure on special machines

Individual failures in dedicated special machines can also be caused by the interfaces, for example with expansion cards based on ISA, PCI or PCIe. Specifically, we primarily observe failures in the Profi-BUS, CAN-Bus or similar communication interfaces and protocols.
The manufacturers of often installed interfaces in the professional BUS area are, for example, Siemens, Beckhoff and Hilscher. CAN BUS systems are available from National Instruments (NI) or PEAK-System-Technik. We are thoroughly familiar with all of these systems.
Once we have completed the analysis, we can identify the existing errors step by step in the software or with the help of replacement modules. If we know exactly the cause of the error, we will repair the defective part or replace the component.

Save data if an industrial PC fails

In the event of errors in data storage media, data often has to be restored or saved because everything must be done to preserve as much of the existing data as possible. The more data that can be preserved or saved, the faster a system can be put back into operation after repairs. Depending on the damage on the data carrier, it may be necessary to use a clean room environment. Retrofit GmbH also has the necessary resources for this.

If nothing works anymore: IPC replacement

A repair is not always useful or possible. Sometimes an industrial PC cannot be repaired. This is usually the case when it comes to defective mainboards or motherboards. In such cases it is usually necessary to completely replace the system. However, we then back up the existing software and the integrated interfaces and keep them. Then try to reconnect the system 1:1. This means that there are no changes to the connection and function of the machine and the machine can continue to be operated with a new IPC. We call this replacement of industrial PCs an IT retrofit.

The challenge is to adapt the new, current IPC hardware to interfaces and software solutions that are often ten years or older. Profi-BUS is quite often used in Windows XP systems, which cannot be implemented as standard with current hardware for industrial PCs.

Current hardware no longer supports operating systems such as MS-DOS, Windows NT, Windows 2000 or Windows XP, although these are still in use in many cases. But such a difficulty does not necessarily mean the end of a system. Interface cards based on ISA or PCI sockets are a challenge, but we can solve them through an IT retrofit.

Microcircuit and motherboard close-up on a black background, generative AI

Advantages of IPC repair/replacement

  • The remaining control technology, e.g. PLC, can continue to be operated unchanged.
  • There is no need to adapt sensors and actuators.
  • Operators/operators do not need to be retrained.
  • New software/visualisations do not have to be programmed.

Not only are there a variety of options for repairing or replacing an IPC, these options are also many times cheaper than a control system conversion or even the procurement of an entire new system.

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