Edge computing graphic

Thermal Management Protection Solutions For Edge Computing Environments

By Jonathan LaPorta, Pfannenberg USA

Select the right option to ensure continuous operation of senstive electronics

Edge computing – placing application logic as close to the source of data as possible – reduces latency, optimizes bandwidth usage, and minimizes costs, all while increasing visibility and control, speeding up processing, and enhancing user experience. The challenge is that enclosures used to protect distributed computer equipment from the immediate environment oftentrap heat generated by the electronics. Read on to learn about thermal protection solutions that ensure continuous operation of sensitive electronics in edge computing environments.

Edge computing graphic


Benefits of Edge Computing Fuels Explosive Growth

The adoption of edge computing is accelerating for mission-critical computer components in factories, warehouses, retail stores, hospitals, and college campuses – and indeed in most other sectors. The explosive growth is fueled by megatrends like digitization, the internet of things (IoT), and automation.

Key examples include high-definition video cameras that generate masses of data; machine vision systems used in manufacturing to perform imaging-based automatic inspections; hospitals, which have to store and process medical sensor data and digital health records; and warehouses and retail stores running inventory and point-of-sale systems.

All that data needs to be processed somewhere, and it is usually much faster and more efficient to do it close to the edge where people and things produce and use that information. Keeping and processing data at the edge can also enhance reliability, security, and privacy by minimizing the transmission of sensitive information and exposure to network failures and malicious attacks.


Protecting Distributed Components is Critical

In edge computing environments, computing equipment is located outside of a climate-controlled data center. Servers and networking gear are often placed in crowded factory floor spaces, up in warehouse rafters, or in closets. They may be located in inhospitable environments, with high ambient temperatures, or dust- and oil-filled air. That is why distributed computer equipment is typically placed in enclosures for protection. Unfortunately, the enclosures themselves trap heat generated by the electronics, so they require protection from overheating.


Simple, Proven Cooling Solution 

A variety of cooling methods have proven effective for thermal management of electrical enclosures. Filter fans are an economical solution when the ambient temperature is always lower than the temperature required by the computer components inside. One example is Pfannenberg’s new Datawind Filterfan®, which has a temperature indicator and is mounted externally to the enclosure to enable full use of all racks within the bays.


More Challenging Cooling Applications 

Some applications require enclosures specially designed for challenging environments, from weather and impact-resistant outdoor enclosures to tightly sealed stainless steel enclosures for food production facilities that must withstand high pressure cleaning.

A closed loop cooling system is required when the interior air of the electrical enclosure must be protected from the exterior environment. Air to air technology is one of the more energy efficient technologies to use when there is a temperature difference between the internal target temperature and the surrounding temperature (∆T≥10°C). Pfannenberg’s Kinetic System™ (PKS) Series Air to Air Heat Exchangers remove heat from inside of the enclosure to the cooler environment using the least amount of energy while still providing a closed loop ingress protection.

If the electronics generate a high heat load and/or the ambient air is too warm to provide adequate cooling, an active cooling system such as the Pfannenberg DTS Series of side mounted cooling units may be required. These air conditioning systems utilize a compressor for cooling in a closed loop design that isolates the interior of the enclosure from the exterior environment.

Ideal for extremely demanding industrial and outdoor applications, Pfannenberg’s DTS units provide NEMA 4 level of protection from washdown conditions and caustic air and can operate in ambient temperatures up to 140° F (60° C).

By implementing the optimal cooling solution for distributed components operators can take advantage of edge computing’s many benefits while protecting mission critical IT infrastructure from overheating.


Automatically Efficient: Pfannenberg’s Networked Cooling Units

Innovation by automation: Pfannenberg connects its thermal management solutions for switch cabinets to the cloud. This results in lower costs, fewer outages, and individual settings.

Electrical enclosures like switch cabinets need a steady temperature of 35 °C. If that’s not the case, the sensitive inner workings could be sincerely damaged. For example, a temperature rise of just ten degrees shortens the built-in semiconductors’ lifespan by half. And if an important part of a switch cabinet malfunctions, the following machine damages or production outages could cost the operator millions. Special thermal management and process cooling solutions help to avoid that.

Pfannenberg, a specialist for cooling unitschillers, and signaling technology since 1954, offers especially innovative and efficient ones. This company’s eCOOL X series can be integrated into the user’s automated processes and remotely controlled via cloud computing.

Autonomous M2M Communication

Solutions like these are made possible by M2M communication. Every cooling unit gets equipped with a wireless module and a SIM card that communicates with an online platform. Connected to the machine controlling unit, this Modbus interface collects sensor data, for example about the switch cabinet’s inside and outside temperature, or the speed of the cooling fan. Then the gateway transmits the data in almost real time to the Cloud of Things, a cloud-based management platform. Here, the data get collected, organized, and monitored. Additionally, the information can be fed into local automation systems via the interface.

Cooperation partner for this solution is Deutsche Telekom that with the Cloud of Things offers its customers a single-sourced end-to-end application. Hardware, connectivity, platform and service are fuss-freely provided by one contact partner. The Cloud of Things is hosted in German data centers; this ensures compliance with German data protection laws. “Because we connect the cooling units via cellular communication to the Cloud of Things, we don’t have to touch the company’s IT,” says Conrad Riedesel, head of Deutsche Telekom’s Commercial Management M2M unit. “This ensures high data security as well as predictability of investment and operating costs – because we don’t charge for our service sweepingly but depending on the number of connected machines and based on special M2M rates.”

Everything at a Glance

The Cloud of Things evaluates and visualizes the machine’s collected relevant status data on its own. Users can have a look at this compilation where- and whenever they want – they just need a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone with an internet connection. They can also define thresholds for every measured value; if one gets exceeded, the Cloud of Things alarms a predefined person. That makes the monitoring of several assets at different sites much easier. “Due to the automatic alarm notifications, we can make sure that critical operating conditions will get noticed before any further damage by high temperatures is done,” says Pfannenberg’s CTO Nils-Peter Halm. “Thus, our customers are much better protected against expensive production outages.” And the longer the machines are connected to the Cloud of Things the more conclusions the platform can draw as to which thermal loads each individual cooling unit has to shoulder. That makes more individualized – and better – settings possible.

Integration Into Automation Systems

On request, the eCOOL X cooling units can be integrated via Modbus interface into the fully automated machine and process cycles on site. There, they can be controlled decentrally and the process chain is able to react independently to warnings and adjust the cooling performance as needed. “The future belongs to smart factories. We get our thermal management systems ready for our customer’s networked production cycles,” says Andreas Pfannenberg, CEO of Pfannenberg.

Pfannenberg’s Vision of Industry 4.0 and How to Implement it Successfully

“Invest in talent – like they do in the Sporting Industry”

Digitization offers new opportunities in almost all business areas and companies have to use this advantage to enable transformation – digital transformation. To do so, It is sometimes necessary to restructure the business models.

Andreas Pfannenberg who was named Hamburg’s family entrepreneur of the year in 2015 for its consistent focus on the continuous development of its company through innovative solutions, was interviewed by T-Systems MMS to explain Pfannenberg’s vision of digital transformation and how it is implemented in the company.

Interview by André Weiss. T-Systems Multimedia Solutions GMBH

Mr. Pfannenberg, there are cars that drive themselves and robots set to remove any form of human intervention from production lines – industrial digitalization is driving every sector forward at the moment. For example, it will be the prominent theme at Hannover Messe, the world’s most popular trade fair for manufacturing. However, there is a feeling that SMEs are still in hibernation where this subject is concerned – or is that the wrong impression?

Sadly, no.

… and why is that?
As I see it, many companies are taking an approach that has become particularly well tried and tested in industry: “We have time, we’ll let the big boys tackle it first. They can develop a standard and then we’ll follow on it.” This approach has worked well with previous trends and flows, which makes their attitude slightly easier to understand.

It’s understandable but risky too, isn’t it?
Absolutely. The digital transformation of industry is very dynamic, no longer comparable to the industrial robots that we have seen in the past. So even SMEs should not delay and should start taking action. For example, we see in Hamburg our very active dialogue platform, Industry 4.0 (for which I am an ambassador) as a wake-up call. We want to shake people up and encourage them to think about new business models.

What else, apart from giving a wake-up call, can we say to these companies in terms of practical advice?
That along with the transformation, the moment has arrived in which to jettison other traditional processes. For example, if I decide to get a new digital business model ready for launching, then I should think about whether or not I want to put the effort in on my own. And if I don’t want to, I should not hold back from cooperating with other organizations. It might be possible to work with companies in other sectors, or even with partner companies in the same sector. In short: it’s time to put our cards on the table – some countries are already ahead of us in this respect.

And is it too difficult for many company managers to adopt this approach?
That is not the only problem. To be honest, I have to admit that this isn’t always easy in our industry sectors. When I do a B2C deal then I can quickly create and develop new business as I see fit. But B2B business is a much more complex issue. One of the challenges is to recognize the real drivers. That’s why input from start-ups and IT is significant as they provide many companies with valuable motivation for the future with their ability to think outside the box, to network and move away from the beaten track. Start-ups in particular often act as uncomfortable indicators of how we adhere to old patterns of thought.

So once this motivation is successfully taken on board, what happens next?
Let me give an answer to this in the form of a generally applicable formula – producing in a more technology-friendly way. When I present our digitalization initiative, I start by floating this proposition: “Progress is a good thing”. You have no idea how often I see doubtful looks or at least hear a murmur go around the room. That’s what I mean by beaten tracks. It is clear to me that we need to stop waiting and start doing. It’s all the more important since we are moving rapidly towards an aging society which, by its nature, lacks fresh incentive. So the need for us to become industrial companies which welcome progress and digitalization is more urgent than ever.

And what about you, how are you welcoming progress to Pfannenberg?
For example, by working in tandem with a university to automate our processes. We are analyzing our entire supply chain and talking to our customers, asking them what they will expect from us as their supplier in the future. On that basis we are developing case studies from their point of view – and their point of view only.

Any concrete results yet?
Absolutely. We make electronic technology for industries around the world; thermal management systems for electrical enclosures. As part of this, we have worked with Deutsche Telekom to develop a system which uses a GSM mobile communications interface to read operating data from climate control units and transfer the data to a secure cloud where the information can be analyzed. This allows us to track the status of climate control of the units anywhere in the world; which means, for example, that we can take early action if a unit looks like it is about to break down. Given the scenarios in which these units operate, this is a huge plus for the service we offer to our customers. It is also of benefit when used with preventative maintenance. Units can be serviced in advance if they need to be and not in a randomly fixed cycle which bears no relation to their real-time status. We would not have been able to get a massive project like that off the ground on our own – but it also has something to do with our corporate culture.

How so?
Clearly I need to set things in motion from the directors’ floor with top-down development of new business models. But the need for them comes mostly from production. For me, as the head of the company, it is very important to be aware of any suggestions and ideas provided by staff members and to take it seriously. It means breaking through barriers. The separation between IT and production is obsolete. It’s important that both departments pull together as one. IT is already much more closely involved now, than five or six years ago and that will increase in the Internet of Things (IoT) age. Furthermore, waiting is not an alternative; as an industrial company, we are in the same position as the sport or music industry…

Please explain this further?
Yes, we need to be brave enough to spend a lot of money when the occasion demands. Sport franchises and music publishing companies all invest in talented individuals even if they don’t know whether they will become stars. It is possible to recognize talent, but today many companies do not invest in young talented people. It is necessary to invest and to have long-term commitment and confidence.

Pfannenberg Invests in Industrial IoT (Internet of Things) Software Development Company

As companies move forward implementing Industry 4.0 infrastructures and strategies, the need for connected equipment grows. Companies will require the ability for systems to support remote monitoring, firmware updates and preventative maintenance diagnostics. Working with Cybus (Hamburg, Germany) we will be able to meet the IoT needs of our customers.

Pfannenberg CEO Andreas Pfannenberg said: “We have been completely persuaded by the abilities of the team and by the solution from Cybus which bridges the gap between the extremely high demands of industry and cutting-edge internet technology. It offers huge potential for the development of new services. Even as a well-established SME, we will be able to learn a lot from this project.”

Cybus CEO Pierre Manière stated: “Apart from the investment itself, Pfannenberg represents a tremendous strategic gain for us. Its wide-ranging experience of the sector and our shared understanding of the importance of industrial solutions are of great benefit to us.”

Topics: Internet of ThingsIoTIndustrial InternetIndustry 4.0