Magazine Article | September 18, 2007

Fan-Free CPUs At The POS?

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Retailers no longer need to sacrifice processing power when using fan-free solutions for point of service.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, October 2007

As CPU (Central Processing Unit) technology improves, higher-speed processors become available. One detriment to using a high-performance CPU is the amount of heat it generates, which can cause premature system failure due to a component operating outside of its approved temperature threshold. In order to evenly control the internal temperature of an integrated point of service computing system, many POS manufacturers utilize multiple cooling and exhaust fans or heat pipes to direct internal heat outside the system cabinet. However, controlling thermal output and power consumption on these POS systems becomes more difficult as performance increases. This is especially challenging in providing compact, fan-free POS architectures, where heat and vibration can interfere with performance. The solution requires a new heat-efficient POS design architecture and components that have very low thermal output and consume a minimum amount of power.

Reduce Cost Of Ownership
Integrated software developers also face the challenging task of developing software solutions that require less power at the front end workstation and increased processing power in the back office or off-site server. Such a solution enables both a powerful and efficient environment, leveraging a cost-effective operating system and hardware design. With this design, a customer's cost of ownership is greatly reduced and the payback period is shortened. Of course, for some applications, processing power is required, which is why all professional manufacturers develop a range of system offerings to meet most application needs.

Over-Design Leads To High Cost
Oftentimes, POS hardware manufacturers are unclear what environment their products will be placed in, which results in a product that is over- designed in order to meet several market demands. This detracts from its core value to meet a specific industry demand, and it increases the cost of a product. Design of a system enclosure must take into account the basic physics and heat transfer concepts regarding heat conditions, circulation, radiation, and dissipation. Effectively applying this knowledge during the design phase will result in a finished product that transfers a majority of the internal cabinet heat to the outside environment. When designed properly, a fan-free POS system can leverage its outer enclosure to act as a large external heat sink to assist in the heat dissipation process. To achieve this, the outer enclosure must consist of a highly efficient heat-conductive metal material such as aluminum, not plastic. This is the quickest and most efficient way to expel internal heat through natural heat radiation or air cooling, while achieving an effective price and performance balance.

Long-term exposure within a hot environment will reduce the life of disk drives and electrolytic capacitors and other components. A key design element for a fan-free system is the selection and location of certain chips, components, and media storage devices. These components must be properly positioned on the main system board and within the cabinet to ensure that heat-generating components and disk drives are properly distributed for optimum heat dissipation. With a sound design, a manufacturer can continue to utilize 21-watt CPU technology in a fan-free system, offering its customers robust solutions at a low cost.

Tim Becerra is VP of business development and sales at Posiflex.
He can be reached through the company's Web site at