Technology Showcase: AV Racks and Consoles
Apr 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By Jay Ankeney
Melding form and function in a user-friendly workspace.
The modular nature of personal computers as well as Internet access and presentation systems is migrating the housing of many of these modules into AV furniture (generally categorized — for the purposes of this article — as racks and consoles) adorning corporate boardroom environments, meeting centers, and training facilities. Gone is the day of industrial chic when the same creaky metal rack moved up from the basement machine room could be accepted into modern boardroom couture. The kind of rack or console designed to be installed in a room where corporate people gather needs to add to a professional office décor, rather than appear as a workstation afterthought.
For our purposes, racks and consoles are technology centers intended to hold AV or computer equipment for convenient use and maintenance. While the main purpose of a rack is to accommodate the needs of the equipment, the raison d'être of consoles is to provide a workspace that accommodates a human operator.
Standardized racks have been around ever since American tycoon George Westinghouse chose a 19in. shelving width for the electronic switching gear used in his railroad empire starting in the early 1890s. Today's racks come in both 19in. and 23in. widths and are configured either as an open bay system with four rails and multiple shelves, or as enclosures whose sides and doors protect the equipment from both the elements and unauthorized hands.
Consoles are said to date back to the roll-top desk, but Evans Consoles claims that its founder, Ross Evans, began the modern era of equipment consoles in 1980 by creating control consoles for the oil and gas industry in Calgary, Alberta. Today, Evans Consoles is a world leader with installations ranging from NASA to Deutsche Telekom.
FOR CORPORATE ENVIRONMENTS
Here is a look at racks and consoles from major AV furniture manufacturers who claim their products would be suitable to fit into the corporate décor of boardrooms, meeting centers, and training facilities.
The SmartRack from AFC Industries is a modular design rack intended to give users the ability to adjust the height of the monitors, as well as the height of the work surface, letting them change from a sit-down to a stand-up position. The SmartRack can rest on 2in. twin casters (two of them locking) or glides.
For console purposes, AFC Industries offers its ErgoTier Deluxe workstations with independent electronically height-adjustable tabletop and monitor arms set. The ErgoTier family combines a strong, durable single-tier workstation with a new flexible flatpanel monitor platform.
For corporate consoles, Bretford recommends its Liquid line marketed in alliance with Herman Miller. This is part of its Liquid Power/Data delivery system, which forms the backbone of the Bretford Liquid workspace, a unique office system encompassing the unified application of workstations, storage, power, and data, and incorporates privacy screens specially designed by Leef. The system is built around substations, which serve as central power and data hubs.
Bretford also offers its SmartDeck work center, with a work surface that is height-adjustable from 24in. to 32in., meeting ADA requirements, and the CPU harness of SmartDeck attaches to the inside or outside of the leg, adjustable for towers from 6in. to 11.5in. by 15.5in. to 19.5in. (W×H).
The Contender series of console furniture from Constant Technologies with a louvered grill cooling system features a slatwall design, articulating LCD monitor arms, integrated power strips, and horizontal and vertical cable management systems. For superior aesthetics, Constant uses a state-of-the-art computer/fabrication equipment interface, which means all components are cut, drilled, laminated, and edge banded using computer-controlled machinery.
The most popular traditional slope-front console from Delta Designs is its D-3019, which offers 11U equipment spaces and can accept up to two more levels of 11U modules. It can house both CRT and flatscreen monitors and a wide variety of electronics.
The most requested of Delta Designs' Back to Basics series of workstations is the DD-LR3660, which incorporates a rack to house equipment and control systems for industrial and smart classroom use.
Coming from the largest custom console manufacturer in the world, Identity is Evans Consoles' most flexible console platform design with a virtually unlimited series of options from fully enclosed to fully open. For example, Identity can parametrically stretch to easily configure to almost any layout. Its central frame structure is designed as a portal system where the space between the upper and lower portions of the console is barrier-free, permitting equipment to float into either plane as required.
The Soho Premiere series of multimedia consoles from Forecast Consoles includes integral wire ways for video and audio cables in an open architecture that provides complete access, ventilation, and AC power. The Soho Premiere series of consoles has levelers for uneven floors, and optional removable rear doors. They are all built with MasterRail technology. At the heart of Forecast Consoles' MasterRail technology is a proprietary aluminum extrusion profile that is the fixture to which all devices are attached to form a ridged, dimensionally perfect structure.
Lowell offers its LPT4-23 series racks — a 19"×23" “pull and turn” frame system with four slides. The LPT4-23 series has a mounting system for built-in wall and millwork applications, and includes a bottom base with turntable with four heavy-duty slides for 300lb. loads. A convenient pushbutton lock and release accessible on the center front of the bottom base allows the rack to rotate 90 degrees on the turntable. Lowell also has the L83-5S surface wall rack cabinet (24"×32"×6"). For natural/convection ventilation of equipment-generated heat, the L83-5S cabinet incorporates air slots in the bottom front and along the integral formed handle.
Luxor's AVJ42KBC is a versatile metal AV cart that adjusts from 24in. to 42in. in 2in. increments so it can function as a comfortable console for users who wish to sit or stand. Its roll-formed shelves feature a powder-coat finish, and the tables are robotically arc-welded with cable pass-through holes for cable management. The locking cabinet has reinforced doors with full piano-length hinges. Luxor's AVJ42KBC includes three-outlet, 15ft. UL and CSA electric assembly with cord wrap, and 4in. casters, two of which have a locking brake. When used as a console, the AVJ42KBC features a pullout keyboard shelf that is 19"×12" (W×D).
For unrestricted access to equipment and cabling without the need for tracks and stands, Middle Atlantic Products recommends its WR series rollout rotating rack system in a steel host enclosure that slides out and rotates 60 degrees, requiring no additional accessories. Its host enclosure can be pre-installed onsite, while the detachable rack frame in the WR series is integrated with equipment offsite, simplifying installation.
In addition, the ergonomically designed LCD Monitoring/Command Desk from Middle Atlantic Products provides maximum usable pace in a minimum footprint. LCDs can be mounted using optional monitor arms or placed on desks using manufacturer stands, and the company's Add-A-Bay models allow for economical expansion. An optional lower light bridge allows improved line of sight to video monitor walls.
Racks Unlimited specializes in racks all made out of heavy-duty steel. The company's RU-44 is a 7ft., 19in. rack enclosure robotically welded with 12-gauge steel. Designed with an office environment in mind, the RU-44 is useful for mounting 19in. chassis, sub-racks, and control panels, and conforms to the national EIA-310-D Electronic Industry Association standards. It has heavy-duty, steel-bottom gussets and is painted with an industrial polyurethane high-solid paint, which complies with VOC regulations.
The Graphite Furniture Group from Raxxess is centered around the GRF-WS workstation built on a base of 18-gauge, cold-rolled steel and finished in a silver powder coat. Integral cable management and floor levelers are standard on the GRF-WS, and the fully articulating keyboard shelf and optional monitor shelves are a solid 3/4in. thick. Up to three optional monitor shelves can be placed left, right, or center and are 5in. above the desk surface for easy viewing.
Raxxess pioneered the concept of rotating racks, and its ROTR-XL rotating rack system has an extended base design to increase clearance when mounted behind cabinet doors. Articulating cable carriers allow for neat and organized cable storage. For larger and heavier duties, the Raxxess ROTR-HD is available in sizes up to 44RU and features a weight capacity of 650lbs., properly distributed.
Developed with flatscreen monitor technology in mind, the Series 4800 from Tresco Consoles permits a reduced console depth, which maximizes floor space use. The recessed monitor shelf accommodates the added height of the latest flatscreen monitors and provides a more natural viewing angle for seated operators. The Series 4800 has a reduced height of the monitor shelf, which positions monitors at an ergonomically proper height for ease of viewing.
In addition, Tresco also offers its unique Vertek motorized monitor stand that it has developed inhouse. Vertek adjusts the degree of curvature of the monitor positioning as operators move the screens toward or away from them to maintain optimal visual alignment.
The Audioarts A-Line furniture system from Wheatstone starts with a center desk to hold an audio console, and then the installer can add side counters of various sizes and shapes. Under-counter cabinets can be ordered with standard leveling feet or optional 360-degree swivel wheels. Each cabinet has 12 rack spaces, and the rear panel of the Wheatstone Audioarts A-Line furniture system comes completely off for full interior access. The system's construction includes built-in ventilation and wiring pass-throughs.
The Slim-Line Command Center consoles from Winsted are comprised of floor-mounted pedestals, horizontal support chase, and decorative frames with a front and rear enclosure. Its optional rackmount insert complies with EIA specifications for rackmounting ANSI/EIA standard RS-310.
Winsted also offers its Pro Series II of vertical rack cabinets in nine sizes with custom vented side panels, National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) conduit knockouts at top and bottom, and independent lift-off side panels.
For More Information
Middle Atlantic Products
Jay Ankeney is an industry consultant and former TV network engineer living in the Los Angeles area.
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