Rugged Computer FAQ
Q1. Rugged means what exactly?
What does rugged mean? From a user perspective, rugged is really just the computer’s ability to keep operating under all exposed working conditions. And not just once, but for the life of the unit, which can easily be 3-5 years. However, depending upon the kind of work being performed, what is rugged for one user may not be rugged for another. For example, a mobile computer in a warehouse is likely to be dropped often and may be exposed to a lot of dust, but is unlikely to face extreme temperatures or rain. On the other hand, a forester will need a unit with protection against water and a wide temperature spec, but is probably not too concerned about dust. The right tool for the job A mobile computer is only a tool used to help you do your work. So the cardinal rule for a user is: find the right tool for the job. A wise purchaser of a mobile computer will carefully evaluate what kind of working conditions the unit will be exposed to and then dive into product specifications to find a unit that is rugged enough in the right categories to hold up under these conditions. It is also probably a good idea to select a unit, which is a little more rugged than you actually need. It is far better to be too rugged than not rugged enough, and you may at some point encounter conditions more severe than you originally predicted.
Q2. How rugged IS rugged?
The level of rugged is best defined by its environmental specifications and the 3 most common and useful specifications are:
- Temperature range
- MIL STD 810G
- IP rating (Ingress Protection)
These specifications are almost always listed on the product data sheet. The temperature spec defines the operational temperature range of the unit. Working with a unit above or below this spec may cause the unit to fail. MIL-STD-810G is a standard issued by the United States Army’s Developmental Test Command. The standard consists of a series of various environmental tests to prove that equipment qualified to the standard will survive in the field. They were designed specifically to test military equipment, but are now used to test a wide range of both military and civilian products, including mobile computers. IP stands for Ingress Protection, and an IP rating is used to specify the level of environmental protection of electrical equipment against solids and liquids. In other words, it tells us what amount of size of solids or liquids can get inside the enclosure and possibly damage the device. It is defined by international standard IEC 60529.
The MIL STD testing methods
MIL STD 810G is comprised of about 24 laboratory test methods that cover a wide range of environments, from the ability to perform at high altitude (method 500.4) to the ability to survive ballistic shock (method 522). No mobile computer has been tested to all 24 methods; many of them do not apply to mobile computing. But generally speaking, the more methods tested (and passed), the more rugged the unit. The most rugged units (like the Nomad or the Ranger) have been tested to between 8 and 10 MIL STD 810F methods. Also, when evaluating a data sheet, pay attention to the methods that apply to your situation. If you will be working at over 10,000 feet of elevation, make sure the unit has been tested to the MIL STD method that covers altitude. If you are going to be working in rapidly changing temperatures, make sure the unit has been tested for temperature shock.
The IP Definitions – What level do you need?
IP ratings are displayed as a 2 digit number. The first digit reflects the level of protection against dust. The second digit reflects the level of protection against liquids (water). The definition of those levels is displayed in the chart below. From the chart we can see that, technically speaking, the dust spec has 7 different levels, level 0 to level 7 and the water spec has 9 different levels, level 0 to level 8. But, practically speaking, rugged computers all have at least a dust protection level of 5 and water protection level of at least 4. Nevertheless at the operational ends of the scale, the levels can make a big difference. For example, a dust level of 5 means that some dust can get into the unit, whereas level 6 unit is completely dust proof. To take another example, an IP67-rated unit is totally dust proof and is capable of immersion in water for at least 30 minutes to a depth of 1 meter. This unit would be an excellent choice in either a very dusty or dirty environment or one where it may be possible to drop the unit into a body of water like a lake or a stream. On the other hand, an IP rating of IP54 is only protected in a limited way to dust and water and should never be fully immersed.
Rugged computers for tough environments
Knowing what the specifications are and what they mean can provide invaluable information about how a unit will function in the field and over the long term. So, use the specifications to help you pick out the best unit for your situation.
Q3. What are the various Compliance Definitions?
ATEX is the name commonly given to the framework for controlling explosive atmospheres and the standards of equipment and protective systems used in them. It is based on the requirements of two European Directives.It is based on the requirements of two European Directives.1) Directive 99/92/EC (also known as ‘ATEX 137’ or the ‘ATEX Workplace Directive’) on minimum requirements for improving the health and safety protection of workers potentially at risk from explosive atmospheres. The text of the Directive and the supporting EU produced guidelines are available on the EU-website. For more information on how the requirements of the Directive have been put into effect in Great Britain see the information in the section on Equipment and protective systems intended for use in explosive atmospheres.2) Directive 94/9/EC (also known as ‘ATEX 95’ or ‘the ATEX Equipment Directive’) on the approximation of the laws of Members States concerning equipment and protective systems intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres. The text of the Directive and EU produced supporting guidelines are available on the EU website. For more information on how the requirements of the Directive have been put into effect in Great Britain see the section on Selection of equipment and protective systems.
1. CE Marking on a product is a manufacturer’s declaration that the product complies with the essential requirements of the relevant European health, safety and environmental protection legislation, in practice by many of the so-called Product Directives.*
*Product Directives contains the “essential requirements” and/or “performance levels” and “Harmonized Standards” to which the products must conform. Harmonized Standards are the technical specifications (European Standards or Harmonization Documents) which are established by several European standards agencies (CEN, CENELEC, etc). CEN stands for European Committee for Standardization. CENELEC stands for European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization.
2. CE Marking on a product indicates to governmental officials that the product may be legally placed on the market in their country. 3. CE Marking on a product ensures the free movement of the product within the EFTA & European Union (EU) single market (total 28 countries). 4. CE Marking on a product permits the withdrawal of the non-conforming products by customs and enforcement/vigilance authorities.
The definition and aim of the RoHS directive is quite simple. The RoHS directive aims to restrict certain dangerous substances commonly used in electronic and electronic equipment. Any RoHS compliant component is tested for the presence of Lead (Pb), Cadmium (Cd), Mercury (Hg), Hexavalent chromium (Hex-Cr), Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). For Cadmium and Hexavalent chromium, there must be less than 0.01% of the substance by weight at raw homogeneous materials level. For Lead, PBB, and PBDE, there must be no more than 0.1% of the material, when calculated by weight at raw homogeneous materials. Any RoHS compliant component must have 100 ppm or less of mercury and the mercury must not have been intentionally added to the component. In the EU, some military and medical equipment are exempt from RoHS compliance.
What is ISPM 15? ISPM 15 is the ‘International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures Publication No. 15 (2009): “Regulation of Wood Packaging Material in International Trade”. Why was ISPM 15 developed? ISPM 15 was developed to address the global spread of timber pests by regulating the movement of timber packaging and dunnage in international trade. ISPM 15 describes phytosanitary measures to reduce the risk of introduction and/or spread of quarantine pests associated with solid timber packaging material (includes dunnage). Who developed and endorsed ISPM 15? The United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) addresses plant quarantine through the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). The IPPC is an international treaty administered by the FAO and implemented through the cooperation of member governments. Australia is a member or ‘contracting party’ to the treaty. As for all other ISPMs, the Secretariat to the IPPC coordinated the development and preparation of ISPM 15 over a period of time through an agreed and defined process of draft development and country consultation. ISPMs are recognised as the basis for phytosanitary measures applied by members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) under the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement). Australia has been a WTO member since 1995. The Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM) (provided for in a 1997 revision to the text of the IPPC) was established in 2006 and now serves as the global agreement’s governing body. Members of the CPM are the contracting parties to the IPPC. As Australia is a contracting party to the IPPC, Australia is therefore a member of the CPM. More detailed information on the CPM, the IPPC (including its relationship to international trade), and other international agreements is provided on the International Phytosanitary Portal, the official website for the International Plant Protection Convention.
Q4. Why a Rugged Tablet?
A rugged tablet pc is a perfect form factor for mobile field computing. The rugged tablet can be carried by hand, in a purpose built carry bag or installed in a car using a vehicle computer mount solution.
The right tool for the job
A mobile computer is only a tool used to help you do your work. So the cardinal rule for a user is: find the right tool for the job. A wise purchaser of a mobile computer will carefully evaluate what kind of working conditions the unit will be exposed to and then dive into product specifications to find a unit that is rugged enough in the right categories to hold up under these conditions. It is also probably a good idea to select a unit, which is a little more rugged than you actually need. It is far better to be too rugged than not rugged enough, and you may at some point encounter conditions more severe than you originally predicted.
Rugged tablet computers are designed to maximise productivity and minimise data loss or downtime due to failures. Products such as the Xplore iX104C6 range even offer uniquely fully configurable RAID disk hardware.
Q5. Why a Rugged Laptop?
A rugged laptop pc is a practical form factor for mobile field computing when extensive data entry is required by the operator. The rugged laptop keyboard is superior for typed text notes and comments or where many data values need to be captured in a software application.
Fit for Purpose Devices
It common for enterprises to look for the cheapest solution and in respect of field devices, is a given. Comments such as “it’s too expensive” or “it’s too rugged” are frequently used in sales situations. However, the reality is that rugged computers, rugged tablets and rugged laptops have proven lower cost of ownership than standard commercial units. A rugged tablet costing say $4000 may seem excessive and compared to an iPad or Galaxy, there is a significant disparity. However, these consumer products will show high rates of failure and reduced life cycles when deployed in harsh environments. This is not unexpected as these products are expected to be replaced for upgrade at least annually…it is in the marketing plan of the consumer brands. A fit for purpose rugged computer will likely still be operating happily 4-6 years after acquisition; no field failures preventing workers from completing tasks, asset value of zero so cheaper than the consumer tablet over 4 years and continuity of software platform to maximise return on investment. For a detailed demonstration of TCO please visit Xplore TCO calculator