Evaluating and comparing rugged commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products and COTS-based solutions can be confusing. Although military ruggedization standards make the process easier, the techniques and methodologies used to ensure ruggedness and reliability can differ from one vendor to another.
While researching the many different rugged computers and servers on the market, you may encounter three categories of ruggedization: semi-rugged, fully rugged and ultra-rugged. In this article we’ll cover what each of these categories mean, and why it’s important to know the difference.
What qualifies as rugged design?
Rugged computing devices (whether semi-rugged or fully-rugged) are built for use away from air-conditioned indoor areas. They’re built for a longer life cycle than an enterprise or consumer-grade machine, which means breakdowns and damage are less frequent.
A truly rugged device will have at least two forms of certification. One is Military Standard (MIL-STD), which proves the device has undergone a series of stress tests originally devised for military equipment. The other is IP-rating, which verifies water- and dust-proofing.
If you’re looking for a device with legitimate rugged design – one that will perform in many different environments, such as high humidity, high or low temperatures, vibration, mechanical shock etc. then certifications are the golden ticket of ruggedization. They are what make a rugged computer truly rugged.
When would you use a rugged device?
A rugged device could be used by the military to support mission-critical weapons, radar and communications systems, or by industries to support assembly line automation and to collect field data. Rugged computers are used in a variety of industries, including defense, space, aviation, aerospace, big data, industrial automation, health care, entertainment, agriculture, energy and telecommunications. Any program or application that requires durability and powerful performance can benefit from the introduction of a rugged computer or device.
Semi-Rugged, Fully Rugged and Ultra-Rugged: What’s the difference?
First, we want to highlight that these categories are not standardized by any organizational body. A device that one rugged computer hardware manufacturer says is fully rugged may be considered semi-rugged or even ultra-rugged by another. The below explanations are definitions based on how the industry commonly uses these terms.
Semi-rugged laptops are designed for professionals who need an office-style computer with a full keyboard, but who spend their day in a hard-hat or non-office environment where safety and climate control isn’t guaranteed (on a building site for example).
Industries that commonly use semi-rugged laptops include automotive, manufacturing, law enforcement, and certain utilities, but in truth, any industry or enterprise where physical risks to your device are not trivial, or where mobile connectivity and information security must always be maintained, or where you might need your laptop to run on battery power for a full shift or longer, would be better served by a semi-rugged than a consumer or business-grade device. It’s helpful to think of a semi-rugged device as a COTS computer with limited rugged features.
Semi-rugged devices are typically equipped with a few parts that have undergone stress testing or certification to military and industrial standards. For instance, a semi-rugged device may have a hard drive that’s resistant to mechanical shock, or an outer covering that can withstand some rain.
Fully rugged devices
Fully rugged devices are commonly seen supporting military and industrial applications in riskier environments than the semi-rugged device. Simply put, they’re more durable than a semi-rugged device but less ruggedized than the specialized ultra-rugged device.
Depending on their certifications, fully rugged devices can be dropped, impacted, exposed to extremely high or low temperatures, withstand high levels of humidity, endure heavy rain and direct sunlight exposure for prolonged periods, and the list goes on.
An example of a fully rugged device is a military computer or a rugged blade server and its electronic components. Fully rugged devices won’t suffer from a performance decline in extreme environments. This makes them ideal for mission-critical applications, which require continuous operation.
Ultra-rugged devices are a little pricier than fully rugged devices. This is because they are near indestructible. They’re designed to endure the harshest conditions the world has to offer.
Ultra-rugged device often refers to a fanless, sealed, conformal-coated device, one that could even survive being submerged in water.
For a device to be considered “ultra-rugged” it must be stress-tested beyond the requirements of the semi-rugged and fully rugged devices. If you’re looking for a device that can be literally frozen, left out in the desert sun, or dropped from three feet onto a cement floor, the ultra-rugged device is the right choice.
Expando AB specializes in fully rugged servers, rugged mission computers, rugged servers, routers and switches. We act as representative or distributor for first class suppliers and our aim is to be your long term reliable partner. To discuss your rugged server needs with us get in touch.