As we have discussed in earlier blogs, most modern day plotters have a computer built right inside of them, very similar to that of a desktop PC. Today we are going to look at the effects of heat on the PC.
The “PC” inside your plotter is already at a disadvantage because it is encased inside another machine. This can build up excessive heat and cause problems such as overheating.
Computers are vulnerable to overheating. The electronic components inside operate at a specific current induced by a low voltage. The sensitivity of the components means that even a small fluctuation in voltage is dangerous. Excessive heat lowers the electrical resistance of the circuits, therefore increasing the current.
The ideal operating temperature of a computer ranges from 50º F to 82º F, preferably as close as possible to room temperature of 72º F. Components inside the computer that are susceptible to temporary malfunction or performance failure if overheated include integrated circuits such as CPUs, chip-sets, graphic cards, and hard disc drives.
The CPU (or microprocessor) produces heat while it is running. This is the “heart” of your computer and excess heat is not good. It can lead your CPU to burn or work in an unstable manner. When your CPU is subjected to excessive heat, the following problems can occur:
- Reduction of CPU life span
- Random freezes
- Random resets
- Total burn out
Another typical symptom of overheating is when the computer works correctly for awhile, then randomly begins to malfunction. Sensors on the motherboard can instruct the hardware, such as the hard drive and/or processor, to run slow.
The answer to the problem is COOLING! There are heat sinks and cooling fans inside the PC that are designed to carry away excessive heat. Computer fans are widely used to reduce temperature by actively exhausting the hot air, but the key is that the fans must be kept clean.
Dust will build up inside the PC, acting as a thermal insulator and impeding air flow, thereby reducing heat sink and fan performance. Another possible problem may be poor heat transfer due to poor thermal contact between components to be cooled and cooling devices. This can be improved by the use of a thermal compound to even out the surface imperfections.
Some PCs are designed to sound an alarm, such as a multi-beeping sound, when the temperature becomes too hot. If you hear this or your fans are racing inside, be warned there is trouble ahead. Your best course of action is to turn off the machine and call for service. BPI can clean out the inside of your controller to help prevent total failure.
One thing you can do on your own is to make sure you have adequate space around your plotter–front, sides, and back–so the internal computer has plenty of fresh air to breathe.