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What Defines a Rugged System?

January, 2004

Computers are now in every aspect of our lives, including the great outdoors, manufacturing floors, and military vehicles and vessels. As a result, there has been an increase in the need for systems capable of persevering in harsh environments. Military and industrial organizations often must employ computing technology in harsh operating environments to complete job- or mission-critical tasks. Without computer systems that can handle such tough environments, missions could fail and productivity could falter. Whether in a battle situation, factory, or oilrig, reliable computing environments are essential for success.

"Rugged" or "ruggedized" computer systems are manufactured to withstand extremes in temperature, vibration, and moisture. To be listed as rugged, a computer has to conform to the U.S. Department of Defense''s (DoD''s) military specification (MIL-SPEC) and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) ratings.

Listed in order of importance, rugged system characteristics include:

  • Shock or Drop Testing: This measure shows how much acceleration the computer can absorb.
  • Vibration: The vibration measurement determines how fittings, seals, and contracts will withstand vibration.
  • Temperature Ratings: Temperature ratings cover operating and nonrating temperatures.
  • Humidity: Humidity covers how well the system is sealed from liquids, rain, sprayed water, and humidity.
  • Dust: Dust ratings tell how well the enclosure is sealed from particulates (such as dust, sand, or airborne fibers in a factory).
  • Spark Ratings: Spark ratings are listed if the computer can be used in an environment where there might be flammable gas.

According to market research findings from Frost & Sullivan, potential revenues for the total ruggedized computer market are expected to reach $3.3 billion in 2005 as a result of growth in both the military and commercial sectors. As long as a valued difference exists between computers designed for fixed-sites and those created for the outdoors or hazardous environments, and as long as strategies are created where the exchange of information is necessary for a successful mission, there will always be a need for ruggedized computers.

Information excerpted from Frost & Sullivan’s "U.S. Commercial and Military Ruggedized Computer Markets."

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