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A new path for modular and IoT-capable machines

As machines and systems are becoming more modular and control cabinets smaller, the space requirements of control components are increasingly scrutinised. At the same time, ever more complex and sophisticated machines require better computing performance. However, there are also more cost pressures in the field of automation. In order to meet all these requirements, Beckhoff has developed a new series of ultra-compact Industrial PCs (IPCs) – starting with the C6015 and the high-end C6030. These devices are suitable for a range of arenas, including environments with decentralised architectures and today’s Internet of Things (IoT) and Industry 4.0 applications.

This series of ultra-compact IPCs premiered with the C6015 at the 2016 SPS IPC Drives trade show in Nuremberg, Germany. Equipped with an Intel Atom CPU, it is well suited for all kinds of automation, visualisation and communication tasks in the medium-performance range.

Measuring only 82mm x 82mm x 40mm, the ultra-compact and industrially suited multi-core IPC is one-third the size of the C6905, previously the smallest control cabinet IPC in the Beckhoff portfolio.

With price savings of approximately 25 percent, the C6015 ranks below the previously lowest-cost x86 IPCs from Beckhoff. With installation flexibility, it also opens the door to application areas that were previously unattainable for IPC technology due to cost or space limitations.

The ultra-compact C6015 IPC has already been deployed in a range of applications in high volumes, including many large-scale projects in Germany and abroad. The concept of the new IPC generation impressed users for several reasons:

The most important feature of the device is the compact size that does not compromise suitability for industrial applications. This is underscored by a design with passive cooling and long-term availability in a robust aluminum and zinc die-cast housing. It also meets all other industrial requirements, such as an expanded temperature range from 0 to 55C. It also has vibration and shock resistance.

Combining high computing power with low energy consumption, the C6015 leverages Intel Atom CPUs with up to four cores, providing a suitable basis to handle all applications in the low- to medium-performance range.

The flexible installation concept permits vertical or horizontal back-wall installation in control cabinets. Also, with its symmetrical cooling fins, the C6015 can be positioned freely within the mounting frame. Features like these and the free orientation of the connector level, with all connectors on a single side, allow a range of installation scenarios that accommodate all incoming cable feeds in small spaces. In the past, this was often impossible, precluding the use of an IPC in certain machine designs.

The features and interfaces of the C6015 are also designed for a range of applications with a 30GB M.2 SSD, 2GB of DDR3L RAM (expandable to 4GB), one DisplayPort, one on-board dual Ethernet adapter with 2 x 100/1000Base-T connectors, one USB 3.0 port, and one USB 2.0 port. Overall, the C6015 offers a high-performance density paired with all the interfaces needed in a machine design.

Beyond its typical use case as control hardware for automation and visualisation tasks, the success of the C6015 is also based on IoT applications. About half of the devices installed to date are being used for communications purposes in IoT applications.

These may include something as simple as the collection, processing and provision of process data, or more complex tasks that are typical of an IoT gateway. The Microsoft Azure certification of the C6015 underscores that it is a device suitable for Industry 4.0 applications.

The C6015 is well-matched for such communication tasks, including connectivity with legacy systems, because it makes it easy to add IoT capabilities to existing machines and get them ready for future communication requirements – either as an IoT gateway or a basic data collection device.

Beckhoff is continuously adding models to its range of ultra-compact and flexible industrial PCs. At the 2017 SPS IPC Drives trade show, for example, the company unveiled the high-end C6030 with processors with advanced performance. This is because the concept introduced with the C6015 also impressed users with automation, visualisation and communication applications who have requirements that go beyond the medium performance range.

The C6030, which is also Microsoft-Azure certified, advances the design of the C6015. In addition to dual-core Intel Celeron and Pentium CPUs, 6th and 7th Generation Intel Core i processors are available. This is possible because of a new cooling concept based on a durable speed-monitored and controlled fan with dual ball bearings. With dimensions of 132mm x 132mm x 67mm, the computer is nearly half the size of the closest comparable C6930 control cabinet IPC. The C6030 also offers more standard interfaces even in the basic configuration; an on-board Ethernet adapter with four 100/1000Base-T connectors, four USB 3.0 ports, and two display ports. It also features two easily accessible slots for M.2 SSD drives including an optional RAID controller.

Depending on the selected configuration, the C6030 costs up to 34 per cent less than a comparable IPC from the C69xx family.

It has processors ranging up to the Intel Core i7 with four cores running at 3.6 GHz and the Core i3 with two cores running at 3.9 GHz. As a result, the successful concept of ultra-compact Beckhoff IPCs has now become available even for large and complex machine control applications.

This can include CNC, XTS and HMI instances, multi-axis control, as well as applications with short cycle times and large data volumes. For legacy equipment, the C6030 can serve as a replacement in control platform retrofits and go well beyond the capabilities of alternate systems.

The C6030 can handle all machine automation and visualisation tasks as well as IoT operations. Just like the C6015, the user benefits from a flexible installation concept with vertical and horizontal back-wall mounting and free positioning of the IPC within the mounting frame.

The PCs feature a flexible installation concept, and with all interfaces located on the same side, enables the free orientation of the connector level when space is limited.

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