How Rugged Can Go The Distance
Recent headlines that talk about mobile devices bursting into flames and rugged devices letting in water got me thinking about what we mean when we talk about a device being rugged. The reality is that many consumer devices are not truly rugged, and nor should they claim to be. A truly rugged device is more than just hardware wrapped in a tough shell, in my opinion it is designed to be rugged from the outset.
A truly rugged industrial device is engineered, from the ground up, to operate in the most extreme and hostile environments.
The industrial engineering design is not simply limited to the external housing, but includes internal components, special coatings, sealants, and other design features allowing computers to be exposed to extreme humidity, dust, temperatures, vibration and shock. These types of products are typically manufactured explicitly for use in hazardous or explosive environments and stress tested for such conditions. Additionally, truly rugged devices are made of all-rugged components and undergo specialist testing which must meet and exceed military standard requirements. These rigorous tests ensure products can achieve the highest levels of computer reliability and performance under the harshest conditions.
Rugged from the Inside Out
Understanding the differences between a truly rugged computer and an enhanced commercial design can be a challenging proposition for even the most informed customer. Here at Panasonic, we of course know what to look for because we have been designing rugged devices for 20 years. That said, there are several rugged components that customers who want a truly rugged device should look out for and these are:
Shock-mounted hard drives and floating system components - Rugged devices, such as Panasonic TOUGHBOOK, use shock-mounted hard drives with proprietary foam technology to protect against drops and vibration when in a challenging environment. In addition to this quick-release hard drives employ metal enclosures that encase both the shock mounting foam and the hard drives to protect them when they’re removed.
Heat-pipe assemblies - A major point of failure, and contributor to dust and moisture ingress is the use of fans to prevent the device from becoming too hot. Heat-pipe assemblies eliminate the need for fans, and funnel heat away from sensitive internal components.
All magnesium casing – Operating out in the field, equipment is exposed to the elements, which can be challenging in many ways. With magnesium casing devices are protected from both atmospheric and physical impacts and pressures. This assures superior resistance to drops and applied pressure. In addition to this dust and dirt tend to find their way into all exposed areas of mobile computers. This can lead to potential problems with the functionality of the keyboard and other components, slowing productivity and efficiency. Therefore, with magnesium casing devices are protected from an extensive range of elements.
Advanced LCD technology – In tough environments, it is important for rugged devices to be complete with anti-glare and anti-reflective features, providing excellent outdoor visibility for fully-rugged models.
Multi-core mobile performance – Truly rugged devices do not rely on one core alone, to remain reliable in the most challenging situations. By dividing tasks across the multiple cores, the device is sped up and the performance is optimised.
Spill resistant keyboard - Mobile field computers are inevitably exposed to rain, spills and splashes and should be capable of withstanding anything from dripping water to complete immersion. Spill resistant keyboards and other components result in the device being water resistant - a vital asset to consider when buying a rugged device.
Rather than just taking a consumer device and adding a hardened case to it, every part of a truly rugged device has been thoroughly tested to withstand the harshest of conditions. Therefore, customers must consider the above factors when choosing what kind of device they wish to purchase. If they don’t, they may find that the rugged or tough device claims are worthless – one false move and they’re gone.
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