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Orbit Micro Creates a System to Monitor Temperatures Over Long Distances Over Fiber

The Application:

Brain Electrical Activity Monitoring and Recording For this customer's project they required a rugged system to be used as a distributed temperature sensing instrument. This system would measure temperature over the entire length or surface of a critical asset, up to 10km, and would also provide thousands of measurement points to monitor actual conditions. This is achieved by shooting a line of fiber optic cable across the asset then measuring the response time of a signal that is sent down the cable in order to obtain temperature reading. Extreme temperatures, shock, vibration, humidity, EMI and RFI are some of the elements that this computer had to withstand when measuring temperatures in underground power cables, down-hole oil & gas, pipelines, and storage tanks

The Hardware Requirement:

Top View

In addition to the withstanding harsh environmental elements such as extreme temperatures, shock, vibration, humidity, EMI and RFI, this customer required a short depth chassis less than 20" deep, capable of housing and sufficiently cooling all their instrumentation. Internal electromagnetic interference was a huge concern, because of the extremely sensitive laser measurement devices, so separate power supplies and backplanes are needed. For easy transportation of the huge amounts of data that this system will record, they also requested a removable hard drive to be installed in the front chassis.

The Solution:

Fiber Switch

To satisfy the computing power that they need we went with a Pentium 4 800MHz FSB single board computer. For the chassis requirement we went with our RACK-3100 rackmount chassis because of the drive cage profile and the shallow depth of the chassis. This case had vertical drive bays that allowed for the use of a 14 backplane with room for all of their instrumentation that required full-length slots. This chassis also features 3 hot-swap cooling fans that allowed for even distributed cooling across all cards in the system. Their add-on cards used for measuring the light response time and wavelength, were fairly large compared to that of normal cards found on the market. With the increased mass of the card, small shock forces are enough to "pop" these cards out of their slot. The chassis comes equipped with a single hold down bar, but the location of the hold down bar did not provide any protection for the rear of the cards, so our solution was to simply mill the chassis to accommodate a second hold down bar located at the rear of cards.

Internal View With All
Instrumentation Installed

Because of how sensitive their instrumentation was inside the system, 2 separate backplanes were needed to isolate electrical interference and to keep it to a minimum. In order to power each backplane, two separate power supplies were need but they needed to be powered on at the same time, and be powered from one AC inlet. We custom mounted two power supplies in the chassis and made custom cable harnesses for the AC-inlet filter to the AC inputs on the power supplies. In order to power on the power supplies, we used a rocker switch and made another cable harness that would power on the power supplies directly.

Extra precautions were taken to secure screws, backplanes, hard drives, power supplies, electrical components on the SBC; locking washers, lock nuts with nylon inserts, RTV, and Loctite® were amongst some of the methods used to ruggedize the system against vibration and shock.

Rear View

Additional Services:

After receiving the first prototype from Orbit Micro, the customer proceeded to get the system completely UL, FCC, and CE certified. From that point it was our responsibility to make sure that every system we shipped the customer was exactly the same as the first. Which normally isn't a problem, but because the computer industry is so volatile and the parts that were used were all COTS, being able to support their project for for than 10 months is difficult when it comes to sourcing parts for the build. We were able to solve this problem, by analyzing our customers need and their expected forecast. With that information we were able to stock inventory just for them, for future builds, and/or replacements or repairs. Combined with very diversified distribution channels and direct contacts with the manufacturers. If our stock runs low in the future, sourcing parts through the distribution channel would not be a problem.

The level of customization of this system required an extended production time longer than that of any standard system that we build. In an effort to reduce lead times, we pre-built their systems and completed all hardware customization. Therefore when they placed their order, their systems would be available to ship within a couple of days.