The latest trend of industrial applications is to implement advanced technologies like IOT, Industrial 4.0, Edge AI, Vision Aid Robotic rapidly. To meet the expectation, products for such applications need to respond to the new technologies like edge computing by not only upgrading the performance but also maintaining their reliability and durability. As a result, the demand of rugged PCs is surging.
In the article, we will introduce the features of a rugged computer and main principles of IPC design.
What is a rugged PC?
A rugged PC, compare with a consumer PC, which is more suitable for harsh environments with 24/7 operation. Normally consumer PCs can’t not work as its best performance or even dysfunctional when putting them in a tougher condition (e.g. extreme cold or hot weather, in water, high vibration, strong ambient magnetic/ electric field). Rugged PCs can operate under these circumstances with high reliability because their unique design engineering.
It is common to see the identifiable and distinctive architecture of a rugged PC. Its robust one-piece structure with fan-less and cable-less can be exposed to extreme temperature, shock, vibration, dust particles, or water (sea water). Regardless of the rugged design, an elite rugged computer also remarkably flexible, expandable, and customizable. This explains why IPC industry is benefiting from the development of new technologies. A successful application should combine with the advances and sophisticated design.
The development of industrial computers has enabled the more industrial applications.
The Design And Capacity Of A Rugged PC
1.When Robust Design Meets Fan-less Needs
You only can call “semi-rugged” when a device is made with sturdy material. To recognize a fully rugged device needs to make sure there are no moving parts, which may cause dysfunction while operating in the computer’s architecture. Therefore, a fan-less design needs to be implemented and heat issues need to be considered. Without a fan, rugged computers dissipate heat by utilizing heat sinks. Heat sinks can transfer the heat from electronics to the computer’s metal chassis, and the specific design of external chassis can dissipate heat into air.
2.An Extreme Range of Temperature
Most of time, rugged computers deploy in a wider range of temperature conditions. It is crucial that too hot or too cold should not be an issue. Since the downtime risks can cost companies large amounts of money, to be resistant to the extreme temperatures became a main topic for industrial use computers. Normally the standard desktop PCs operate in around 10℃ to 35 ℃, but industrial applications need computers to be capable of operating in freezing cold range from -40 ℃ up to scorching hot like 85 ℃. Therefore, the solution for such tough application should be ruggedized computers which are capable of withstanding extreme environments by fan-less design and using industrial-grade components.
3.Military Stand- Anti Shock and Vibration
To consider extra durability, reliability, and longevity, rugged computers need to be resistant against high strength of shock and vibration. It is common for a great rugged PC to comply with the military standard (MIL-STD-810G) in shock and vibration resistance, which is capable of sustaining 50Gs of shock, Half sine, 11ms (with SSD).
Furthermore, the design of rugged computer is a series of strict process. It needs utilizing industrial-grade components (such as capacitors, resistors, power chokes, etc.) and eliminating moving parts by using SSDs instead of HDDs. When the risks of potential failure from shock and vibration are eliminated from the device, it can maintain the reliability of best performance 24/7.
4.IP Rating- Protection on Dust and Water
Another specific feature of rugged PCs is the protection against tiny dust and water exposures. It is fundamental for a device certified with IP rating for determine the degree of protection.
IP rating stands for ingress protection rating, and it is consisting of two decimal digits which show the degree of protection against dust and water. The first digit indicates the level from lowest score of 0 to the highest score of 6 for the most protection of dust. The second digit indicate the level from lowest score of 0 to the highest score of 9K for the most protection of water.
Therefore, a common range of IP rating is from IP65 ~ IP69K. Prior to fan-less design paragraph, it is the key point to achieve the goal. With this feature, the devices can be satisfied and implemented in various industries such as mining industry, automotive industry, health industry, food and beverage processing industry, and maritime industry, where needs frequent washdowns.
5.Versatility & Power Control
When integrating a system combined with many devices, having control over power input is crucial in maintaining performance stability. Especially in embedded rugged PCs, there are several unique features for it to be able to control power inputs from external sources.
To prevent the occasions that the power input and output may fluctuate unpredictable and then affect performance or even cause system damage, rugged computers are armed with OVP (over-voltage protection) and OCP (over-current protection). OVP is to prevent any sudden high voltage input (> 55V) to damage the internal components, and OCP is to prevent from over current or in-rush current that may damage the system.
The versatility of a rugged PC is about the compatibility. With a wide range of voltage from 9V up to 48V power input, and power ignition management, it can ensure dependable applications in vehicle or mobile industries.
6.Expandability & Flexibility, Compact Design & I/O Ports
Rugged computers with compact design can allow them to fit in tight spaces which may be implemented in various applications. But to do that does not mean you have to sacrifice the expandability. You still can increase the computing capabilities by adding memory, storage, adding new input ports that are specified based on your specific needs.
The industrial applications usually happen in remote locations where is difficult to connect by cables. Nowadays, rugged computers are configured with wireless features such as WIFI, Bluetooth, LTE, 4G, or 5G. It is also available to connect by sim cards which is the redundancy for occasions (when there is no signal).