Rugged Smartphones and Computers
are more than just “Rugged Case”
Sometimes even users of professional rugged smartphones or computers are unsure of what exactly defines a “Rugged Phone or Computer, what tests are done to validate that ruggedness and how these test are made. Let us explain the IP ratings, MIL-STD-810G standard and other specifications of rugged smartphone computers. Understanding the specs of rugged equipment is the key to choosing the correct rugged mobile computer terminal for your assignment.
Rugged vs. “Ruggedized Shell” computers
A truly rugged smartphone or computer is much more than a consumer unit wrapped in a tough outer case. Consider the difference between “Rugged” and “Ruggedized Shell” smartphone (tablet or computer) is that in “Ruggedized Shell” the fragile internal components were somehow protected from outside, but a truly Rugged smartphone (Tablet or Computer) was designed from inside out to operate reliably in very harsh environments and conditions.
Starting 2017, tough and durable smartphones (Tablet and Laptop Computers) are gaining demand and popularity. Some consumer devices are being advertised as “Rugged”, because of the features like water resistance, but in reality these devices are slightly “Ruggedized Shell”, not truly rugged. They might be really good at being waterproof, but they absolutely lack other aspects of ruggedness, such as ability to withstand vibrations, shocks and to keep up in extreme temperatures.
How rugged handhelds are tested?
To be considered rugged, smartphones, tablets, computers have to undergo multiple tests to comply with military standard MIL-STD and the Ingress Protection scale.
- MIL-STD – the United States military standard for electronic equipment, is to ensure equipment can handle low pressure at high altitudes; exposure to high and low temperatures, temperature shocks, rain, humidity, sand and dust exposure, leakage, shock and vibration.
- The Ingress Protection scale measures devices protection from dust and liquids. The ratings are displayed as a two-digit number following the IP abbreviation. The first digit reflects the level of protection against dust, and the second digit reflects the level of protection against liquids (water). An IP65 rating would ensure complete protection against dust and protection against water jets.
These testing standards measure a smartphone’s ability to withstand the harshest environments around the globe.
Here’s how the most important tests are processed for individual environmental factors:
Vibration – A set of laboratory tests to simulate presence of the device on a moving vehicle or carried by a person, with variations in the vibrations’ wave form, frequency and intensity depending on the type of device and the environment being simulated.
Drop and Shock – A set of drop test procedures to monitor device’s behavior during and after different shocks and impacts. The harshest is the “transit drop test”. It requires the device to survive a total of 26 drops from a height of 1.22 meters, on each face, edge and corner, onto a hard surface like concrete.
Liquid-resistance – During these tests, a smartphone, tablet or a computer is exposed to powerful water jets from all directions. The test duration, water volume and water pressure determine the protection rating.
Extreme Temperature – Operability test in high and low temperatures include exposing the device to extreme (Heat or Cold) while it is turned off (storage), while it is being turned on and used (operational), and while it is being used in normal operational temperatures after having been exposed to higher storage temperatures (tactical-standby to operational).
Sand and Dust – Test ingress of small dust particles. Flour and sand are interfered with the device at variable high wind speeds and high temperatures for several hours while the device being is rotated.
Humidity – Smartphones, laptops and computers are exposed to tropical heat with humidity well over 90% for several days. Many of the IP related features also help prevent damage from high humidity.
Making it Rugged
How exactly those rugged devices that can pass all those crazy MIL-STD and IP rating test are made ?
Here are couple of examples:
- Unlike consumer handhelds and computers, most rugged smartphones and computers have no moving parts in them, like fans or rotating hard drives. Instead rugged devices have solid-state drives (SSD) — drives with no moving mechanical components with very high physical shock resistance.
- Rugged smartphones, tablets and computers equipped with reinforcing bars, often made from aluminium, those prevent inside components and boards from damage during an impact. The outer body (case) usually equipped with bumpers that are designed to absorb the energy from a drop to prevent internal damage.
- Although all modern consumer smartphones and tablets utilizing the protection of Corning® Gorilla® Glass, those are still easy to break as the consumer smartphones do not protect the weak points of the protected glass, sides and corners, where in fully rugged equipment the sides and corners of the glass are always protected by positioning the screen lower than the surrounding case to decrease the vulnerability.
- Some rugged equipment is equipped with internal heaters in order to help the device successfully operate under extremely low temperatures. The heater warms the components of the system to a needed operating level and prevents condensation that arises from extreme temperature changes.
In conclusion, every single detail and component of a fully rugged smartphone, tablet or computer is deeply researched, developed, manufactured and tested to make the device as reliable as possible.
Now, when you’re equipped with knowledge and understanding of the ruggedness standards and test, it’ll help you choosing the rugged smartphone, tablet or computer that fully suits your business’s unique needs.
And remember, if you need a rugged smartphone, tablet or computer, don’t buy a “Ruggedized Shell” unit, a truly Rugged smartphones, tablets and computers are built inside out to be durable, not just a fragile device wrapped in a hard case.