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The Panel PC as a Screen

THE Intel Atom processor-based Kontron Nano Client panel PC with stainless steel housing has been implemented as a visualisa tion client and HMI (Human Machine Interface) into a new ultrasonic measurement system from iNOEX, which has been developed for pipe centring to achieve optimum wall thickness.

With this new measurement technology, the die head used to produce large-sized and thick-walled pipes can be quickly centred, reducing start-up scrap and saving considerable costs.

When faced with the choice of an appropriate HMI, a robust, fanless, and completely-sealed IP66 design was particularly important for iNOEX.

To produce large pipes, granulate material or powder is heated in an extruder and pressed through an extrusion die. Depending on the pipe diameter, production speed is only a few meters per minute. Such extrusion lines can reach lengths of up to 60 meters.

Previously, there had been no way to directly measure the wall thickness of a pipe in a vacuum tank during the extru sion process. Only after the pipe had been extruded and cooled could it be measured and any necessary adjustment of the die head take place.

Ultrasonic sensor

This process wasted a great deal of time and material, and one was not always sure whether the die was set precisely upon the second attempt.

This has now changed with the intro duction of the new ECCO centring unit from iNOEX. The system is suitable for pipes made of PE, PP, and PVC, and can be used for pipe diameters starting at 90 mm and wall thicknesses from 1.8 mm to 120 mm.

It can be installed both with the in- house MAXFLEXX calibration sleeve as well as with any other customer-available calibration sleeve. The ultrasonic sensors are mounted directly on the calibration sleeve. The measurement is performed automatically, without any necessary operator input.

The wall thickness distribution data is then displayed on a 10-inch monitor. Thus, the die settings can be quickly and accurately adjusted to compensate for pipe sections that are too thick or too thin. In this way, the pipe is exactly centred after only a few meters and the production process can continue precisely under the desired conditions.

The fast start-up process and preven tion of start-up scrap reduce costs signif icantly allowing the ultrasound measure ment system to pay for itself after only a few months.

For this human-machine interface, iNOEX looked for a rugged, cost- effective client that would function reliably for many years in the typical dusty industrial environment. A 10-inch monitor was already a require ment, to ensure easy readability even from short distances.

In addition, the system should support Linux and Java, because the data that are logged and transferred from the actual ultrasonic data sensor are stored centrally on this measurement device.

Intel Atom processor

In the standard version, the data are transferred via Ethernet to an Intel Atom processor-based panel PC. With outstanding performance and low power requirements, this processor technology fits perfectly into Java- and Linux-based software environments.

Due to less heat generation, it also allows for robust, fully-enclosed system designs. Compared to previous genera tions of x86 systems with similar performance, the system features improved power dissipation and there fore runs much cooler. Additionally, Atom-based system designs can be flatter and more compact.

The processors are also more cost efficient than previous processor generations with comparable perform ance. Consequently, the Intel Atom processor technology offers many improvements for open HMIs based on x86 processor technology.

Moreover, the benefit arguments of power and cost savings that up until now favoured the use of RISC-based HMIs are today also arguments for the new x86 SFF processors, because they now feature all these same strengths, too.

So if developers need something more than RISC at a highly cost-effec tive price point, then the new x86 HMIs based on Intel Atom processors are by far the best choice.

Fast system development

iNOEX opted for the Kontron Nano Client, which the company began implementing into the new ECCO centring tool while Kontron concur rently handled the system development. “Since the introduction of the Intel Atom processors in the spring of 2008, we knew that we wanted to have this processor,” said Martin Deters, technical director at iNOEX, “so we looked around for a manufacturer that could quickly and reliably launch a suitable platform.”

Kontron’s extensive product portfolio and board level products along with its premier membership in the Intel Embedded Alliance were all attractive to iNOEX.

“In the IPC market, processor technology often lags a generation or two behind. We, however, sought out a supplier that regularly presents products based on newly launched processors and implements them into a wide range of products.

This ensures relatively early design security and mature software support. Kontron has proven that it is particularly nimble in implementing the latest processors, so this was the natural choice,” said Deters.

In addition, Kontron was also able to secure an attractive price for the system. This was possible due to the synergetic effect of product development, the company’s global positioning, and most importantly the cost-effective high- volume manufacturing of board-level products in its factory in Malaysia.

In general, system development and assembly of panel PCs for Kontron’s European customers take place in Europe. The specific panel PC board for the Atom processor was made in Germany, which further accelerated the logistics for the German client.

System in detail

The Kontron Nano Client is currently used by iNOEX in the 10-inch version. It is equipped with a 45nm Intel Atom Z5xx processor and the highly-inte grated Intel System Controller Hub US15W, and offers up to a 1.6 GHz CPU and a maximum of 1024 MB of soldered RAM.

Thus, the compact Nano Client can also run even demanding web-based visualisations. With 1 x Gigabit Ethernet and 1 x USB 2.0, it offers all required interfaces for HMI or terminal applica tions. Essential for pipe extruding equipment is the Compact Flash solu tion for data storage, which features no moving parts and excellent shock and vibration protection.

The 24-volt DC power supply rounds out the industry-standard feature set. The Kontron Nano Client family with 15-inch monitor has been available since March 2009 and 10.4- inch versions became available in November 2009.

In the standard version, Kontron Nano Clients support Windows CE, Windows XP Embedded, and embedded Linux along with a variety of protocols such as http, XML, and RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol).

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