Industrial applications are implementing advanced technologies that have rapidly grown over the past several years and the trend keeps increasing exponentially. To cope with these software and hardware advancements, manufacturers are challenged to produce more powerful computers. Furthermore, these computers are also required to be reliable and durable amid industrial deployments at the edge in extreme environments. This explains the surging demand for rugged PCs on the market. That said, after reading this article you will understand what is a rugged computer and what makes it truly rugged.
What is a Rugged PC?
A rugged PC is a computer that is built tougher than most PCs on the market. Rugged PC are engineered and built specifically to perform reliably and optimally in the harshest environments where regular consumer-grade computers cannot withstand deployment. Everything in rugged PCs is selected and constructed to maintain the system's durability, reliability, and longevity amid challenging deployments.
A rugged computer is unique and has a distinctive architecture. Their robust structure is supported by their fanless, cable-less, and one-piece design. Thus, rugged PCs can withstand intense environments where they will be exposed to extreme temperature, shock, vibration, tiny dust particles, water exposure, and many other challenging conditions. What makes them so appealing is regardless of their rugged design, great rugged PCs are also remarkably versatile, expandable, customizable, and flexible. This is why plenty of industries are benefiting from ruggedized pcs for their application instead of desktop processors.
Industries that Utilize and Benefits from Rugged PCs
The development of rugged computer devices has enabled the technological advancement of industrial applications. These applications are often exposed to extreme environments that are detrimental to regular computers. Therefore, they need to be durable and reliable, capable of running heavy workloads while surviving harsh environments. Industrial solutions are tightly related to IoT solutions that involve heavy computing tasks such as AI, machine learning, and deep learning. These technologies and solutions will revolutionize the industry with incredible solutions.
Understanding Rugged PC’s Designs and Capabilities - When Rugged Meets Fanless
Rugged devices are built with sturdy materials, but they are still semi-rugged. For a rugged PC to be fully rugged engineers need to make sure they eliminate moving parts within the computer’s architecture. This is where they implement a fanless design for the rugged PC to be ultra-rugged. Fanless or passive cooling design works by cooling the device without a fan but instead utilizes heat sinks to dissipate heat from the CPU and motherboard. The heat sink transfers the heat from the electronics to the computer’s metal chassis. The external chassis is specially designed to protect and dissipate heat naturally into air. With the whole chassis working as a passive cooler, the PC can control its heat effectively without requiring any fans.
Moreover, the fanless design offers various benefits and reduces the possibility of a computer malfunction Without installing any fans, it will extend the PC MTBF (meant time between failure) and prevent failure caused by the fan. There will be no need for repair or to replace the fan itself. When utilizing passive cooling, the computer wouldn’t need any venting holes and this can increase the ingress, protecting the system from the ingress of dust and other small particles. Moreover, it’s more convenient to have a silent PC even when processing heavy workloads of data.
Extreme Temperature Range
When deploying rugged PCs in extreme temperature conditions, whether the environment’s temperature is too hot or too cold it wouldn’t be an issue for ruggedized computers. It is crucial for a rugged computer to be resistant to a wide range of extreme temperatures to avoid downtime risks that can cost companies large amounts of money. Unlike standard desktop PCs that can only operate in controlled indoor environments, with a temperature ranging around 10℃ up to 35℃. Rugged PCs are capable of operating in extreme temperatures that are freezing cold temperatures ranging from -40℃ up to scorching hot environments where temperature can reach 85℃. Due to their fanless design and passive cooling architecture which utilizes heatsinks to conduct heat from the internal components to its outer sturdy metal enclosure that dissipates heat effectively.
Ruggedized PCs are capable of withstanding extreme environments because there are heatsinks that are made out of extra-conductive materials (aluminum and copper) attached to their CPUs and SoCs, conducting the heat to their outer enclose that is made out of extruded aluminum with heavy-duty metals.The outer enclosure or chassis then dissipate heat to the external airflow and also functions as a robust structure to protect the computer from shocks and vibrations. In this way, rugged computers can maintain their reliability and durability amid deployments in extreme heat environments from the scorching hot desert to the freezing cold poles of the earth.
Military Standard - Shock and Vibration
To ensure extra durability, reliability, and longevity, rugged PC architecture is designed to be resistant against extreme shock and vibration. Great rugged PCs are compliant with the military standard (MIL-STD-810G) in shock and vibration resistance. It even surpasses the test’s standards capable of sustaining 50Gs of shock, Half sine, 11ms (with SSD) for shock, and 5 GRMs of vibration, 5-500Hz, 0.5hr/axis (with SSD) for vibration. Built out of fanless, cable-less, and one-piece design makes the rugged PC extremely tough.
Furthermore, rugged PCs are utilizing industrial-grade components (such as capacitors, resistors, power chokes, etc.) that are strictly selected for the best performance possible. Also, rugged PCs use SSDs instead of HDDs to fully eliminate moving parts within the construction. Extreme shocks and vibrations can easily damage or loosen both the internal and external components of the PC and cause fatal failures. Therefore, when moving parts are completely taken out of the equation, the removal eliminates the potential failures that are caused by the system being exposed to heavy shocks and constant vibrations.
Solid Protection on Dust and Water – IP rating
Another great characteristic that rugged PCs have is their exceptional protection against tiny dust particles and harsh water exposures. Rugged PCs are certified with IP ratings that determine how well can they protect the system from dust and water ingress. IP rating stands for ingress protection rating, and it is consisting of two decimal digits that show the degree of protection against dust and water particles. The first digit indicates how well the system enclosure can withstand tiny dust particles. The rating’s level ranging from the lowest score of 0 to the highest score of 6 for the most protection against tiny debris and dust particles. The second digit indicates how well the system enclosure can protect the system against water exposure. The rating’s level ranges from the lowest score of 0 to the highest score of 9K that indicates a tight sealing against water exposure.
Rugged PCs are rated as IP65 up to IP69K in IP rating, which is the highest score for both dust and water protection. This is achievable due to the implementation of a fanless design. Graded with a high IP rating makes rugged PC perfect for deployments where devices will face frequent washdowns such as in the mining industry, automotive industry, health industry, and food and beverage processing industry.
Versatility | Power Control
When integrating a rugged PC into an external system, having control over power inputs is crucial in maintaining performance stability between the systems. There are several unique features embedded in a rugged PC to be able to control power inputs from external sources. In industrial application systems, there are occasions where the power input and output can fluctuate unpredictably and can affect performance or even cause system damage. That said, rugged PCs are armed with OVP (over-voltage protection) and OCP(over current protection). OVP mechanisms are designed to prevent any sudden high voltage input that is more than 55V that can damage the internal components. OCP on the other hand, applied built-in fuses on the mainboard to protect the system from over current or in-rush current that can potentially damage the system.
To add more versatility, rugged PCs are compatible with a wide range of voltage for power input, ranging from 9V up to 48V so that they can be deployed in any situation that generates higher or lower voltages into the system. Moreover, rugged PCs are equipped with power ignition management for a wider application such as deployments on a vehicle or mobile environment. It intelligently manages the in-vehicle computer’s power supply when starting up or shutting down the vehicle. This averts the risk of improper shutdown and losing sensitive data from an unexpected power outage. With intelligent power management systems, a rugged PC can ensure reliable and dependable applications across a wide range of industries.
Expandability & Flexibility | Compact Design & I/O Ports
Rugged PCs are considerably compact in design that allows them to save more space to fit in a tight space. Despite being compact in design, systems can be expanded to meet the application’s needs. Rugged PCs are capable of supporting I/O, storage, and memory expansions. Therefore, you can increase the computing capabilities by adding memory, storage, adding new input ports that are specified based on your specific needs. With PCIe 4.0 connection protocol, additional GPU, and a M.2 NVMe SSD, processing and transferring data will be much faster.
Moreover, rugged computers are configured with various inputs such as USB 3.1 Gen 2 Ports, serial ports, independent display ports, digital and general-purpose I/O, PoE/multiple LAN RJ45, M12, and many more customizable inputs. Also, the COM ports, allow the system to connect with legacy technology. That said, rugged PCs are significantly expandable and flexible compared to standard desktop PCs due to their compact design that still offers expansion features and is configured with a wide array of I/O ports.
Industrial PCs are often deployed in remote locations that make it difficult to run cables to connect to the PC to the internet and other devices. Therefore, rugged computers are configured with wireless features for remote high-speed connectivity. Having a high-speed connection wirelessly is essential for the system to communicate and connect with various sensors and devices around it.
Rugged PCs can be configured with various connections such as Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth, LTE, 4G, and 5G. Wi-Fi 6 can deliver a theoretical top speed of 9.8Gbps, which is 40% faster data transfer than the previous Wi-Fi 5 generation. And for 5G, the theoretical top speed can reach an astonishing 10Gbps, providing a high-bandwidth and low-latency for a reliable performance at a remote place.
Furthermore, systems typically come with dual SIM sockets, allowing organizations to add up to cellular carrier for redundancy. So, in the event that one carrier has a poor signal or no signal at all, the PC can be programmed to connect to a second carrier to offload data to the cloud for remote monitoring and control.
Rock Solid Hardware. Industrial Durability and Reliability
The robust design of rugged PC is carefully engineered and specifically built to withstand extreme environments while still delivering outstanding computing power. Nothing unintentional about it, everything is calculated. With incredible durability, reliability, longevity, and immense computing power. Through and through, rugged PCs can be configured according to your specific requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What does ruggedize mean?
Ruggedized means to reinforce something somehow, to make it physically stronger and more durable so that it’s able to handle deployment in extreme environments. Therefore, ruggedized PC are computers that designs are reinforced to withstands such harsh environments. These designs such as fanless, cable-less, and one-piece designs are purposely engineered to ruggedize the PC architecture.
What is MIL-STD- 810G?
MIL-STD-810G is a military defense standard that is used by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and its contractors as very strict quality control methods to make sure the devices produced are top premium quality that can last during the toughest battle conditions. MIL-STD-810G is a very comprehensive test that consists of 29 test methods and 76 procedures that are constructed in 800 pages of papers.
What is the use of rugged PC?
Rugged PCs are extremely useful for industrial applications and deployments. Standard desktop PCs will easily fail during deployment amid these harsh environments. Rugged PCs are ideal for IoT applications that need a durable and reliable PC 24/7. For instance, Premio’s RCO-1010 rugged PC series is capable of operating and processing data in real-time at the edge for LiDAR-based surveillance system solution. Performing as a device that is powerful, intelligent, and rugged.
When would a ruggedized computer be used?
You can get the most out of a rugged computer when you need both computing power and a tough device for your deployment. Rugged PC can maintain their processing power even when they are exposed to extreme environments, dust, debris, water, shocks, vibrations, and power fluctuations threats constantly for an extended time. When these factors are your concerns, it’s how you know when you need a ruggedized PC.
How are rugged PC tested?
Rugged PCs are tested in a comprehensive design validation process facility to measure and ensure their durability, reliability, and longevity. Inside the reliable testing facility, devices are tested to their limit and need to pass through various tests and specs measurements facilities such as temperature & humidity chamber, 1500 KGF vibration tester, thermal shock ramp chamber, IR thermal sensor, signal integrity tester, and electrical tester. Some of the tests are tailored to comply with MIL-STD-810G such as at the shock and vibration section. These tests are then carefully constructed and documented in the device’s DQA (data quality assessment) reports.