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Fanless Hybrid Computer – what is it and why would I need one?

By ·Categories: Reliability, Tech Explained·Published On: September 4th, 2020·3.2 min read·

A fanless hybrid computer is the solution for when you need to use a computer with a high powered graphics card in an industrial environment that demands the ultimate in high reliability. 

Let’s start with the basics – What is a fanless computer and why would I need one of those?

Fanless Computers Excel in Harsh Environments

For years, engineers have turned to fanless computers for industrial applications because they outperform traditional actively cooled computers in harsh environments. For example, OnLogic industrial embedded PCs leverage advanced passive thermal dissipation technology, ingress protection, and solid-state storage, resulting in ultra reliable, vibration-tolerant computers that survive in areas that are dusty, dirty, or hot.  

What if you Need a GPU in an Industrial Computer?

But what about when you need an actively cooled component for your application, yet still require extremely high reliability? Many industrial projects, particularly those involving machine vision and artificial intelligence, require high-powered graphics cards for their computational needs. How can you incorporate a GPU into an embedded or edge computer while still ensuring a low failure rate?

This is a dilemma that has challenged SCADA and industrial automation specialists for a while. Fanless Hybrid computers offer a new approach to solving this problem. 

Fanless Hybrid PCs offer Rugged Solutions with Expansion for Additional Storage, I/O or Graphics Cards

An isolated expansion bay with a PCIe x16 slot allows you to integrate a range of graphics cards, network cards, additional storage options, and other expansion cards. Fans are able to actively cool the graphics card or other expansion card in a separate compartment. Meanwhile, the motherboard and other sensitive internal components are protected in the ventless portion of the chassis. In the event the expansion card needs to be replaced, it is easily accessible from the outside of the case. 

Who might benefit from using a Fanless Hybrid computer?

Imagine a customer that has a machine vision application in an automotive manufacturing plant. If the production line goes down because of a PC failure, all work must be halted and the client could lose thousands of dollars for every minute of downtime. A high-powered graphics card is necessary for the video analysis – but, there is far too much particulate in the air for a traditional fanned PC to survive for long. An engineer in this situation could minimize downtime by using a fanless hybrid PC. The motherboard and other internals would be protected from the dust. If the graphics card failed, the engineer could easily hot-swap a new GPU into the expansion bay rather than imaging and installing an entirely new computer. 

Conclusion – Fanless Hybrid Computers for Dependability and High Performance

Hexlix Series HX600 Showing fanless hybrid computer configuration

Helix HX600 by OnLogic

As intensive GPU requirements become the norm in industrial control applications, manufacturing automation, machine vision, and other edge computing projects, the balance between performance and reliability become increasingly important. Fanless Hybrid computers can be an effective way to ensure dependability and high-performance in challenging industrial environments

If you want to learn more about OnLogic’s unique approach to Fanless Hybrid computers, you can read about our Hardshell Fanless system design. For an example of a Fanless Hybrid Industrial PC, check out the HX600 in our Helix Series.

Karbon K700-x2 fanless hybrid rugged computer

Karbon K700-X2 by OnLogic

Got a particularly harsh environment? Check out the K700-X2 in the Karbon Series. This rugged edge computer offers you GPU expansion and customizable I/O via ModBay.  

Reach out to our team of highly qualified sales engineers who can help you determine the solution you need for your application!


Want to learn more? Check out our white paper to learn the 5 ways fanless computers can help your business.

Download white paper to learn how fanless computers can help your business

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About the Author: Thomas Feldtmose

Thomas is an Account Executive with OnLogic. He is responsible for developing partnerships with clients in the industrial IoT, digital signage, physical security, medical, and manufacturing markets. In his spare time, he likes to hike, ski, and spend time with his wife and two daughters.

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