Ruggedized Computers | Ruggedized PCs | Information & Buying Guide (Industrial Grade)


Ruggedized Computers & Ruggedized PCs (Industrial Grade)

Whether you’re looking for information on industrial ruggedized computers or looking for a source to buy a ruggedized PC, you’ve come to the right place. We will provide you with all of the information you need to know about ruggedized computing systems to make an informed buying decision.

What Are Ruggedized Computers?

Ruggedized computers are industrial-grade computers that have been engineered and built to withstand deployment in harsh or volatile environments that are not friendly to regular, consumer-grade PCs. Ruggedized PCs can survive being deployed in environments often exposed to frequent shocks and vibrations, extremely cold and hot temperatures, dust, dirt, and debris. Everything from the internal components to the outer casing is engineered and built with ruggedness in mind. What makes Ruggedized computers great is that they’re not only designed to withstand extreme environments, they are also lab tested under strict guidelines to ensure that they are capable of delivering the promised robustness, reliability, and ruggedness.

Ruggedized computers are made rugged through passive cooling, eliminating the need for fans to circulate air through the system. Instead, ruggedized computers utilize heatsinks to move heat away from the internal heat-generating components to the computer’s housing, which dissipates the heat into the air surrounding the system. This creates a ruggedized computing solution since it eliminates the need for vents and openings through which dust and debris can enter the system.

We will now discuss all of the features that make ruggedized computers more capable of surviving the harshest environments around the world. To fully understand how ruggedized PCs are able to survive volatile environments, it’s helpful to explain the differences between a commercial-grade desktop computer and a ruggedized industrial computer.

This is so because even though they share the same components, such as the CPU, GPU, RAM, and Storage devices, they are very different in terms of long-term reliability, or in more technical terms, mean-time before failure (MTBF). That said, we will explain the differences between the two types of computing solutions below, as well as explain the main features of ruggedized PCs.

Features and Benefits of Ruggedized Computers


Here are some of the main features and benefits of ruggedized industrial PCs that make them so desirable for industrial workloads:

1. Build Quality & Ruggedization

The primary benefit of ruggedized computers is that they are built to withstand deployment in harsh and volatile environments. Ruggedized computing solutions’ ruggedization begins with building a strong outer enclosure to house the sensitive internal components. When designing the outer enclosure, we chose metals for the enclosure that are capable of delivering efficient heat dissipation from the internal heat-generating components, such as the processor and chipset. Many ruggedized computers rely on thermal engineering principles and the use of metals such as copper and aluminum to transfer heat away from the internal components in the most efficient manner possible.

Also, ruggedized computers are more rugged than regular desktop computers because all cables have been eliminated from the system. This ensures that no cables come loose as the ruggedized PC is exposed to shocks and vibrations.

Additionally, ruggedized computer systems eliminate the fans from the system entirely. By eliminating the fans from the system, rugged computer manufacturers reduce the number of moving parts, which reduces the number of parts that can fail. Failed or failing fans are the leading cause for the malfunction of electronics and computers. As such, by eliminating them, ruggedized computers are made more rugged, reliable, and durable.

Furthermore, the elimination of fans from the system creates a ruggedized computer that is able to handle deployment in dust and debris-filled environments. This is so because the removal of fans permits rugged PC makers to create a completely closed system with no vents or openings through which dust and debris can enter into the system, causing sensitive components to fail.

2. Shock and Vibration Resistance

The second main benefit of ruggedized computers is that they’re able to withstand a tremendous amount of shocks and vibrations, enabling them to survive in environments that regular consumer-grade desktop PCs cannot survive. Regular PCs have a ton of cables and components that can become loose if exposed to shocks and vibrations. Industrial ruggedized computers are designed and built using reinforced mechanical designs that eliminate the use of the cables throughout the system, reducing the possibility of a cable becoming loose, rendering the system inoperable. Furthermore, ruggedized computers, such as those provided by Premio, can handle 5GRMs of vibrations and 50Gs of shock in accordance with the MIL-STD-810G.

3. Dust & Debris Protection

The third advantage that ruggedized PCs offer is the ability to withstand dust and debris. Rugged computers are built with dust and debris protection because they’re often deployed in environments where they will frequently be exposed to dust and debris, so they must be able to handle the exposure while operating reliably. Downtime is detrimental in industrial settings, often costing businesses a great amount of money. Ruggedized PC manufacturers have made it possible to deploy computers in dusty and debris-filled environments by creating a fanless computing solution that’s passively cooled, thus eliminating the need for any vents or opening through which dust and debris can enter the system. Additionally, Premio offers a number of ruggedized computer options for extreme deployments that come with ingress protection (IP) rating for dust and water resistance, specifically in the WCO Series Waterproof Computers for IP65/67 resistance.


4. Wide Temperature Range

The fourth benefit of ruggedized computers is that they are able to operate in extreme temperatures, making them deployable in freezing cold environments where the temperature reaches -40⁰C and scorching hot environments where the temperature can reach 85⁰C. So, whether you’re deploying a ruggedized industrial PC in an oil field in the middle of the Sahara Desert or in the middle of Antarctica during the freezing winter, ruggedized computing solutions will be able to survive while operating reliably and efficiently. Ruggedized PCs are able to operate in such environments due to their fanless design, which utilizes heatsinks to transfer heat away from internal heat-generating components to the outer enclosure of the system, which dissipates the heat into the air surrounding the PC.


4. Use of Industrial Grade Components

The fifth advantage that ruggedized computers have over regular, consumer-grade desktop computers is that although they share the same main components as regular desktop PCs, such as CPU, GPU, RAM, and Storage Devices, rugged industrial computers utilize industrial-grade components that have been tested and verified to operate in the most volatile environments.

Everything from PCB motherboards to electrical soldered capacitors is specifically chosen and integrated into ruggedized computers to ensure that rugged pc solutions can reliably operate in volatile environments that are not friendly to computer systems.

Furthermore, an added benefit of deploying an industrial-grade rugged computer is the longevity of their lifecycle. For example, Intel’s IoT Group’s embedded roadmap for their silicon processors commits to a 15-year lifecycle for support and availability. This is a great benefit for industrial applications that require long life and a locked bill of material for the most incredible reliability in mission-critical applications.

Additionally, ruggedized computers are often equipped configured with SSDs (solid-state drives), which increase the systems’ reliability since they store data on NAND chips vs. the spinning platters that HDDs (hard drives) use to store data. Utilizing SSDs makes ruggedized computers more reliable and durable because silicon chips can better withstand exposure to shocks and vibrations than hard drives.

5. Expandability and Longevity

The sixth benefit for deploying ruggedized computers is that they offer unparalleled expandability and longevity because industrial-grade computers are more expandable and have a lengthier lifespan than consumer-grade desktop PCs. Ruggedized computers leverage the PCIe architecture for expansion and performance acceleration in GPU and FPGA. Additionally, Premio offers a number of daughterboards that can be used to expand the number of COM ports, USB ports, or RJ45/M12 ethernet ports.

6. Wide Power Range

The seventh feature of ruggedized PCs is that they come equipped with a wide input voltage that ranges from 9 to 50 VDC, offering compatibility with a number of different power input scenarios.

Additionally, ruggedized computers come with a number of power protections that include overvoltage protection, surge protection, and reverse polarity protection.

Overvoltage protection cuts off the power to the system if the system detects voltage that exceeds a safe level for the system to continue to operate, saving the sensitive internal components.

Surge protection diverts electricity into the ground in the event that the computing solution detects a voltage that rises above an acceptable level.

Finally, ruggedized computing solutions come equipped with reverse polarity protection, which protects the computing solution system in the event that power supply polarity is reversed. Without reverse power polarity, the system’s internal components could sustain crippling damage in the event that the power supply polarity is reversed.

7. Compact Design and Variety of Mounting Options

Many ruggedized computing solutions are compact in size, allowing them to be deployed in space-constrained environments where regular desktop PCs cannot fit. The compactness in size is attributable to the fanless design, which permits the miniaturizations of systems since there is no need for fans to circulate air throughout the system. Instead, systems are cooled via the use of heatsinks, which transfer heat away from the sensitive internal heat generating components to the enclosure of the PC, which dissipates heat into the air surrounding the system. Additionally, ruggedized computer options offer a variety of different mounting options that include VESA mounting, DIN rail and rackmount mounting, as well as wall and ceiling mounting.

8. Wireless and Wired Connectivity

Ruggedized mini computers come equipped with robust, powerful connectivity options. For wired connectivity, rugged PCs come equipped with the RJ45 LAN Ports, capable of transferring data from 1GbE to 10GbE. Additionally, rugged computing solutions can be configured with multiple RJ45 and M12 locking connector ethernet ports capable of powering PoE+ (IEEE 802.3at) devices for data and power through a single ethernet cable.

Furthermore, ruggedized computers are configured with high-speed USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, allowing your computing solution to connect to smart IoT sensors and other peripherals while transferring data at a speed of up to 10Gbps. Also, if you have legacy technology that you want to connect to your rugged computer, you can do so thanks to the equipped COM ports and daughterboards that allow users to add a wide variety of additional ports that include LAN RJ45/M12 as well as serial ports, USB ports, DP ports, and DIO ports.


Popular I/O Ports for Industrial Computing

In addition to wired connectivity, ruggedized PCs come equipped with a number of wireless connectivity options that include Wi-Fi 6. In the event that a stable Wi-Fi connection is not available, ruggedized computers can also stay connected to the internet through wireless cellular technologies, such as 4G, LTE, and 5G, all of which deliver high-speed communication, enabling data telemetry, remote monitoring, and IoT applications. Furthermore, physical SIM sockets are on the motherboard itself, supporting multi-carrier coverage.

Additionally, rugged computers come equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, connecting industrial computing devices quickly and effortlessly with low-powered devices and IoT devices. Although Bluetooth connectivity does not offer the speed and range offered by Wi-Fi and wired connectivity, Bluetooth does provide reliable one-to-one or many-to-many connectivity for low-powered Bluetooth devices.

Why Are Ruggedized PCs Important?

Ruggedized computers are important because they power a variety of different industries that we will explain in much detail below:

1. Manufacturing

Rugged computers are often used in manufacturing plants because they are robust and rugged enough to reliably operate in industrial environments that are exposed to dust, debris, shock, vibrations, humidity, and extreme temperatures. Rugged PCs are used to collect machine and sensor data, which is then analyzed to produce valuable insights that help manufacturing plants optimize and improve their manufacturing process for increased productivity. Furthermore, ruggedized industrial pcs can be used as HMIs (human-machine interfaces), allowing plant employees to interact with the different machines and systems found in manufacturing plants.

2. Industrial Automation and Robotics

Ruggedized PCs are often used for industrial automation because they assist with automating the various processes involved in manufacturing components and products. For example, rugged computers are often used in automotive manufacturing plants to automate the process of building vehicles. Industrial ruggedized computing solutions are used to automate and monitor manufacturing plants’ day-to-day operations, track assets, and analyze the data provided by the enormous amounts of sensors that are installed throughout manufacturing plants. Furthermore, Robotics in automation is becoming more reliant on locally deployed edge computers configured with GPUs to run inference analysis and image recognition.

3. Intelligent Kiosk Machines

Kiosk machines are all around us; they can be found in airports and grocery stores around the world. Powering kiosk machines are often small, ruggedized computers that are compact in size yet powerful enough to perform their workloads. The ruggedized design of the fanless computers that power kiosk machines enables organizations to deploy kiosk machines indoors and outdoors regardless of the harshness of the environment in which they are deployed.

Rugged PCs are required for any business that wants to deploy kiosk machines outdoors, especially in environments that experience extreme temperatures, as well as dusty and debris-filled environments. This is so because rugged computers do not have any vents or openings through which dust and debris can enter the system. Additionally, ruggedized kiosk computers are passively cooled, which allows them to withstand exposure to extreme temperatures.

4. Security & Surveillance

Ruggedized industrial computers play an essential role in security and surveillance system. For example, deploying a computer system in mass transit vehicles requires ruggedized industrial computers that can handle frequent shocks and vibrations. This is so because vehicles are often accelerating and braking, subjecting onboard computers to frequent jolts, shocks, and vibrations. Regular desktop PCs cannot handle such environments because they are designed and made to be placed on desks, not moving vehicles.

Additionally, ruggedized computers are great for security and surveillance applications because they minimize the amount of raw data that has to be sent to the cloud for remote monitoring. Ruggedized edge computers gather, process, and analyze data collected by sensors and cameras, only sending data that set off certain triggers to the cloud for post-processing and remote monitoring. This is very different from the traditional model, where all security camera footage and sensor data were uploaded to the cloud for processing and analysis. With rugged edge computers, the bulk of processing occurs on ruggedized edge pcs with minimal data being sent to the cloud.

5. Automation Inspection, Metrology, and Testing Equipment

Industrial computers are essential in manufacturing plants because they make it possible to perform massive quality control that involves the use of digital measurement instruments to ensure that component and product measurements are precise and that products are manufactured according to specified requirements.

In the past, prior to the prevalence of rugged edge computers, products and components had to be inspected by hand. The way it was done was by selecting a few items from the hundreds or thousands that were manufactured and testing them for defects. However, ruggedized edge computers enable organizations to inspect every product for defects and/or abnormalities.

6. Military Applications

Ruggedized computers are often used by the military because the military requires rugged computers that can function reliably regardless of the environment in which they are placed. Military-grade ruggedized computers are often used in ground control or shipboard. Ruggedized military computers are often used by the military because the military requires its electronics to have a long operating life.


Where Can You Buy Industrial Ruggedized Computers and PCs?

Ruggedized PCs and computers can be purchased from Premio. Premio has been designing and manufacturing high quality, ruggedized industrial computers for over 30 years in the United States. All ruggedized computers are made using industrial-grade components and have been stress tested to ensure reliable and optimal performance regardless of the deployment environment.

Ruggedized computing solutions are great for industrial automation, providing excellent performance while using little power. Systems are minimalistic while providing all of the essential I/O ports that you require.

Also, Premio offers ruggedized vehicle computers that are specifically designed and built for deployment in vehicles. In-vehicle rugged computers have the ability to integrate with any vehicle’s CANBus, allowing edge computers to gather information, such as vehicle speed, engine RPMs, fluid levels, fluid pressure, and whether the vehicle is switched on/off, enabling fleets to monitor their vehicles remotely.

Additionally, ruggedized in-vehicle computers with a power ignition management feature that permits users to modify how long it takes for the computer to turn on or shut down after a vehicle has been switched on. This prevents data from being corrupted or deleted by sudden shutdowns.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Why are ruggedized computers more expensive than commercial grade computers?

Ruggedized computers are more expensive than regular, commercial-grade computers because they are engineered and built to withstand tough conditions, such as environments with extreme temperatures, dust, debris, shocks, and vibrations. Additionally, ruggedized PCs are made from expensive industrial-grade components that tend to cost more than commercial-grade components, making ruggedized computing solutions cost more. Moreover, ruggedized computers follow long-life roadmaps that support embedded longevity for many years. For example, Intel x86 silicon from the IOTG roadmap commits to a 15-year lifecycle for support.

2. Are ruggedized computers powerful?

Ruggedized computers can be configured with low-powered processors, such as the Intel® Celeron® J1900 system-on-chip (SoC), as well as more powerful LGA socket Intel® Core® i3, i5, and i7 processors, which are extremely powerful and can handle complex workloads. So, ruggedized computers can be configured according to the users’ specific requirements. There are low powered solutions for simple workloads, as well as extremely powerful solutions for more complex and demanding workloads. With even more demands for localized processing, ruggedized computers can now run machine learning algorithms by balancing between CPUs and even PCIe GPUs for real-time processing. To figure out the ruggedized computing solution that’s right for your workload, contact one of our experienced ruggedized computing solution professionals, and they will be more than happy to assist you with choosing the rugged computing solution that meets your specific requirements.

3. Where can you buy the best ruggedized PCs?

You can buy the best ruggedized PCs from Premio. Premio has been manufacturing high-quality, performance ruggedized PCs in the United States for over 30 years. Our engineering team commits to a proven ruggedized pc product roadmap to help with applications leveraging x86 compute architecture. In addition, Premio has its own environmental test labs and equipment to ensure designs meet strict ruggedization specifications for its computers. Everything from wide operating temperature, wide power voltages, shock and vibration, electromagnetic integrity, and ingress protection is rigorously tested for the harshest environments.

4. What are the main components in a ruggedized computer?

The main components of ruggedized computers include CPU, GPU, RAM, Motherboard, and Storage Devices. That said, although ruggedized PCs share the same components as regular desktop PCs, they are equipped with industrial-grade components that are capable of surviving the most volatile environments. Additionally, most ruggedized computers use a fanless design with a heatsink chassis that transfer heat through thermal dissipation and conduction.