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Karbon: Rugged Computers for Industry 4.0

By ·Categories: Industrial IoT, Reliability·Published On: August 14th, 2020·6.4 min read·

OnLogic created the Karbon Series rugged computers for Industry 4.0 from the ground up. Starting with customer requirements and strong German engineering credentials, the team created this high performing rugged computer with many flexible options making it ideal for industry 4.0. The OnLogic engineering team was led by Michael Kleiner who has both a Masters Degree and PhD in Electrical Engineering from the Technical University in Munich, and he brings his German engineering training to his job every day. Ever since he was a child, Michael dreamed about making his own computer. Together with OnLogic innovators, he was able to make his dream a reality. 

We interviewed Michael to gain insight about the Karbon Series of rugged computers including why it was created, how it’s perfect for Industry 4.0 – especially in-vehicle use and more. First a little background on Michael, in his own words.

Introducing Michael Kleiner

My name is Mike Kleiner and I have the honor of heading the Engineering Department at OnLogic. The team is responsible for providing our customers with leading edge solutions for industrial and embedded applications. In terms of capabilities, the team encompasses Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Regulatory, Field Applications Engineering and Product Management and has all the abilities needed to develop industrial computers from the ground up.

German Engineering Background

I joined the company in 2015. My background is in Electrical Engineering with a focus on Microelectronics. Prior to joining OnLogic, I spent most of my career engaged in the development of DRAMs. Initially in the role as circuit designer, subsequently as Manager for development teams at various locations in Germany, the US, as well as China.

He Dreamed of Developing his Own Computer

From a young age I was fascinated by computers & technology and owned various home computers as they became available in the early 1980s. I would take them apart and do research to understand the function of the various components. My first computer stored data on tape. Floppy disk drives were very expensive and hard drives were not around yet. I wrote code and determined I had to learn assembly language to really understand how the CPU works.

“I always dreamed of developing a computer myself.” ~ Michael Kleiner

Next Generation Rugged Computers for Industry 4.0 – Karbon Series

Michael’s childhood dream came true when he led the OnLogic development team to create the Karbon series. In his own words, Michael tells us about the development process for this next generation of rugged computers for industry 4.0 and why Karbon was created. 

Customer Centered Design

We looked at the requirements of the market from a holistic perspective. We work directly with end customers to understand their challenges in both hardware and software. The Karbon series is all about the right computer for the end application. Through using a modular approach, it allows us to customize the computer and I/O interface to meet the exact requirements of a customer’s project, yet have the flexibility to pivot if and when the requirements change without the customer having to change the base platform.

Karbon Pushes the Limits of Rugged Computing

To achieve this we had to push the limits of rugged computing in many ways. For example, in terms of the compute power that can be integrated into the small form factor. Integrating high end Intel core i processors or an 80W Xeon CPU required us to be very exacting in the thermal design.

Karbon for Rugged Computing Flexibility

Another aspect that was key to the development of Karbon was ensuring  flexibility and versatility while not burdening the cost of the base system. Development of our Modbay expansion platform, and leveraging PCIe expansion bays gives users of Karbon the freedom to optimize the feature set for their specific application. Pushing to make the system as flexible as possible also led us to integrate a microcontroller which the customer can use for many valuable functions and may help the customer to combine functions in the K300 and K700 thereby eliminating other hardware.

Maintaining OnLogic Standards

It was also, of course, important that Karbon lived up to the expectations our customers have for OnLogic systems in that it needed to be highly reliable and deliver high performance even in extreme environmental conditions while maintaining our design aesthetic of functional elegance.

In the end, I believe we succeeded on all fronts. The creativity of our engineers is clearly reflected in the K300 and K700. 

Karbon Series: K300 and K700

Michael and his team delivered on the customer requirements by creating the first two offerings in our Karbon Series – the K300 and K700. Michael explains the difference between the two units here. 

K300 and K700 are Siblings

The two are like siblings – the K300 is the smaller one and the K700 is the bigger one. 

K300 – Compact Powerhouse

K300 shines by its compactness and it’s flexibility. It features the efficient Intel Apollo Lake processing, built for computing at the Edge, ideal for many embedded applications and it offers a large amount of expandability and flexibility.

K700 – Expanded High Performance

The K700 on the other hand is the high performance variant, and it presents even more expandability for example via the two custom ModBay slots or PCIe expansion. 

 K300 and K700 Common Features

  • Both offer advanced features for automotive applications such as ignition sensing and low battery voltage detect. 
  • The two can handle ambient temperatures from -25C to +70C, The K700 even down to -40C. 
  • Both include options for integrating 4G LTE or Cat M1. 
  • The two offer the ability to incorporate Movidius & Google Coral. 
  • They can withstand shocks and vibrations of 50G.

Rugged Computers for Industry 4.0 In-Vehicle Use

Industry 4.0 has the need for in-vehicle use and these applications have been early adopters of the Karbon Series. We asked Michael if he could explain why the Karbon Series excels for use in-vehicle. 

Karbon for In-Vehicle Use

As rugged systems, the Karbon Series is designed for in-vehicle use and to meet for example the EN50155 rolling stock standard as well as E-Mark. They can live up to the shock and vibration requirements in these applications, as well as the wide temperature range that can be present in a vehicle from a cold night in the winter in Canada to a hot day in the sun in Texas. It is the reliability at the extremes that these systems provide. And many of our customers have K300 and K700 systems deployed and in service for extended periods of time. We have customers using our K700 in vehicles where the computer performs many monitoring functions through cameras and sensors and the built-in ignition control helps to prevent data loss and ensure a smooth power cycle. 

No Limits

Other features such as the CAN bus interface can also come in handy in vehicle applications. We also offer GPS expansion options that can help with vehicle location and velocity tracking that some of our clients use. In addition, we have taken measures to reduce the current in standby mode in ignition controlled applications to such a low level that it would take more than a year to drain a typical lead-acid car battery. That means that while  environmental factors or the battery’s self discharging might be a limiting factor for determining battery life in standby, the Karbon system isn’t. 

We invite you to explore the Karbon Series of rugged computers and see for yourself how they meet the exacting German engineering standards set forth by our VP of Engineering. Have more questions? Contact our technical team to help you make the right choice. 

Karbon Series for Industry 4.0

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About the Author: Sarah Lavoie

Sarah Lavoie is a content creator for OnLogic. When not writing, she can usually be found exploring the Vermont landscape with her camera looking to photograph something amazing.
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