At pulp and paper mills worldwide, critical computing platforms and displays play an important role in precisely controlling and monitoring high volume production from the receipt of raw materials onward.
However, corrosion is a constant problem due to the continual presence of moisture and vapor as well as chemicals used to break down wood pulp and bleach paper. Left unaddressed, the harsh environment can dramatically shorten the lifespan of PCs, monitors, and other electronics. This can require frequent, costly computing equipment replacement, leading to substantial production downtime during the changeover.
Given the harsh production environment, there can be significant financial benefits to separating the PC far from the HMI workstation using an integrated keyboard, video, mouse (KVM) extender. For pulp and paper mills, there are considerable advantages to this approach, such as extending the life of computer equipment (including the most expensive components) and reducing downtime for replacement or upgrades without touching the HMI workstation.
“With ruggedized displays, the host computer can be kept in a protected, IT managed, moisture- and chemical-free area like a server room instead of a production area. This can not only reduce the TCO by protecting the most expensive computing system components from harsh conditions, but also eliminate the downtime to replace a device due to chemical erosion,” says Paul Shu of Arista Corporation, a leading provider of computing platforms and visualization display products for harsh industrial environments.
Shu also points out that, with the PC situated out of the production zone, computing power is not limited by requirements related to environmental protection.
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF RUGGEDIZED DISPLAYS
Ruggedized displays such as Arista’s incorporate an integrated KVM Extender, touch screen and USB hub. The arrangement can decode signals that were encoded by a transmitter and sent via CAT5/6 cable up to 330 feet (100 meters) away. This allows full functionality of all KVM peripherals as well as touch screens and most USB devices.
At the same time, the KVM transmitter is Power Source Equipment (PSE) that enables powering the ruggedized displays via CAT5/6 cable. “With power over cable capability, ruggedized displays in display sizes 15″, 17″, 19″, and 21.5″ can be placed anywhere without a power source, which simplifies installation on the production floor,” says Shu.
According to Shu, using the ruggedized displays can facilitate the real-time monitoring of critical, complex data from anywhere at a range of up to 330 feet. “In pulp and paper mill production settings, you need ruggedized displays and KVM workstations that can reliably withstand the harsh environment while keeping vulnerable computer systems in a well-protected area.
“When looking to protect computers and improve efficiency in challenging pulp and paper mill environments, ruggedized displays are unrivalled. With their use, computers can be located far away from the harsh environment. This mitigates risk to the production process and enables flexibility of the required computing configuration while still providing an ‘at-the-PC’ experience,” adds Shu.
In addition to extending system life, using ruggedized displays with integrated KVM extenders, along with workstations, reduces the total cost of ownership at pulp and paper mills. When upgrading computers to meet ever-changing business requirements, the ruggedized displays and workstations can be kept as-is while replacing or upgrading outdated computer hardware.
“If a ruggedized display on the production floor needs to be replaced, you only need to remove a single cable and plug in a replacement, which minimizes any downtime,” says Shu.
Finally, Shu points to the role that ruggedized displays and workstations will play in facilitating the use of ever greater computing power, which will be necessary to enable increasingly complex artificial intelligence (AI) applications.
“More pulp and paper mill applications will use an AI model to improve the decision-making process, and this will drive the demand for more computing power. Since KVM extenders enable the application of essentially any level of computing power needed without limitation, this is a ‘future proof’ investment in modern production installations,” says Shu.