What is a ‘Rugged Computer’ – and what kind of situation demands this level of PC?
A rugged computer, or ruggedised PC is a computer specifically designed to operate reliably in harsh environments such as temperature extremes (hot and cold – generally operating in a temperature range of -40°C to 85°C with fan-less cooling with extended life time availabilities) – also where levels of vibration are prevalent and wet/humid or dusty conditions exist. In support of resistance to humidity and dust – internal components may be provided with a conformal coating. In the design phase, quite often product life simulations around temperature, vibration and humidity stress testing are completed to help uncover operational vulnerabilities around the devices external housings, internal components and cooling arrangements.
The vast majority of ruggedized computers share an underlying design philosophy of providing a controlled environment for their installed electronics. Rugged computers are engineered with thought processes to provide specific features and characteristics around the following :-
- Shock and vibration
- Temperature and humidity
- Corrosion and abrasion
- Minimal size, weight, and power
- Acoustic noise reduction
- Low pressure & altitude
- Ingress protection (IP)
- Electromagnetic interference
In reference to the above, electronic components are selected for their ability to withstand higher and lower operating temperatures than typical commercial components. Provision of design around the reduction of cabling, addition of liquid cooling and heat sinks – and use of rugged materials are a ‘must’ to ensure performance in harsh environments. Features also include fully sealed keyboards to protect against intrusion by dust or liquids and scratch-resistant TFT screens (for HMI purposes) that are readable in direct sunlight.
Where would you use Ruggedized PC?
In general, ruggedised or ‘harsh environment’ computers provide for the same needed design features as each other and both terminologies are generally interchangeable with each other; in short, they’re no different from one or another and service the same needs in the majority of instances.
With this in mind, deployment of rugged PCs include applications for provision of the following:-
Transport and SMART City
- Vehicle Gateway & Analytics
- In -Vehicle Networking
- Mobile DVR
- SMART Vehicles
- SMART Cities
- ANPR Systems
- Vehicle Security Systems
Industrial Automation and Control
- Smart Factory Systems & Industry 4.0
- Production Lines
- Object Recognition / Object Detection
- Surface Inspection & Flaw Detection
- Robot / Machine Control
- Image Archiving
- Oil & Gas production
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing
- Food & Drink production
- Chemical production / manufacturing
- Agriculture & Forestry
- Mining & Drilling
- MIL-STD-810: Specifically MIL-STD-810G CN1 (2014), a military standard, issued in 1962, which establishes a set of tests for determining equipment suitability to military operations.
- MIL-STD-461: A United States Military Standard that describes how to test equipment for electromagnetic compatibility.
- MIL-S-901: a military standard for shock which applies to equipment mounted on ships. Two levels apply. Grade A items are items which are essential to the safety and continued combat capability of the ship. Grade B items are items whose operation is not essential to the safety and combat capability of the ship but which could become a hazard to personnel, to Grade A items, or to the ship as a whole as a result of exposure to shock. Qualification testing is performed on a barge floating in a pond where TNT is detonated at various distances and depths in the pond to impart shock to the barges.
- IEEE 1156.1-1993 IEEE Standard Microcomputer Environmental Specifications for Computer Modules
- IEEE 1613 Computers in electrical substations used to concentrate data or communicate with SCADA systems follow IEEE 1613 “Standard Environmental and Testing Requirements for Communications Networking Devices in Electric Power Substations.”
- IP (Ingress Protection) IP65, IP66, IP67, IP69K
- IS (Intrinsic Safety)
- ATEX (Potentially Explosive Atmospheres): Equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres
- NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association)
- IK Code (Also known as EN50102)
- European standard EN 50155, “Railway Applications—Electronic Equipment Used On Rolling Stock”, provides an example of a tough non-military specification. It extends operating temperature range (−25 – +70 °C), resistance to humidity, shocks, vibrations, radiation – encountered in vehicle or airborne installations.
With the benefits they bring, PC’s operable in harsh environments will always be higher in price over the ‘standard’ counterparts. units have higher prices. However, research has found that in environments where rugged computers are commonly used, total cost of ownership can be as much as 36% lower for rugged notebooks and 33% less for handhelds and PDAs – compared to conventional non-rugged versions. The lower overall cost is due to lower failure rates and the related impact on productivity when used in environments where computer uptime is imperative to a company’s business.
A rugged PC has a completely sealed housing which protects it against all kinds of elements such as water, dust, shock and vibration. This kind of PC can be left out in a sandstorm, frozen in a blizzard or go underwater.
A great alternative to rugged laptops or tablets providing better protection, IP rating and space for custom electronics and I/O. A good solution for combining instrumentation and computing in one rugged and portable package
A ruggedized Panel PC is built to operate reliably in dusty or wet environments and conditions. These computers have a thicker and stronger housing than a regular Panel PC, and are mainly used for industrial, construction and military purposes.
Fully rugged tablets are engineered from the inside-out to work in extreme temperatures and other harsh conditions. They are designed to resist drops, shocks and vibrations while maintaining strength to be dust- and waterproof.
BVM Design and Manufacturing Services
- BVM have a portfolio of standard (‘off the shelf’) product solutions (motherboards, panel PC’s, system PC’s, COM/SOM modules) to provide for the countering of environments containing elements such as moisture, salt, dust and the presence of chemicals. However, we can also customise solutions with the provision of services such as conformal coatings to ensure the optimum of performance even in the most challenging of environments. The coating protects circuits and components from abrasion, electrical short circuits and increases MTBF performance.
- Where something a little more specialised is needed, please consider BVM’ bespoke custom designed systems where we provide configured systems with memory, storage and optimised embedded operating systems. And If you can’t find an off the shelf system that meets your specific requirements speak with our in house design team who will talk to you around designing your product from ground up; concept, design, development and production
- If your application lies within the Industrial Automation, Military, Medical, Transportation and Smart City – or any type of market vertical we’re sure we’ll have a solutions that fits.
We like to make life easier ….
Our technical & commercial team members will always provide you with valuable but impartial advice around the products and services that BVM supplies. With their collective backgrounds, they’ll provide you with the benefit of their knowledge and experiences when & where you need it. We’ll always help you in the first instance and get back to you when additional information is required.